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David Puttnam

Skibbereen Ludgate Hub

Skibbereen's new digital hub hopes to be template for rural Ireland

01 August, 2016

Skibbereen’s new digital hub hopes to be template for rural Ireland

The opening of a revolutionary 1 Gigabit digital hub in Skibbereen in West Cork which aims to facilitate the creation of 500 jobs locally by 2020 has been hailed as offering a template for the revival of rural Ireland. 

The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen was officially opened on Friday by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor who said that the hub was “an innovative and exciting project” which she hoped would be replicated “up and down the country.”

Ms Mitchell O’Connor said that the Government had set a target of creating 200,000 new jobs by 2020 with some 135,000 of these to be created outside of the main cities and she believed the “pioneering Ludgate Hub” offered a road map for achieving this.

She said the project combined entrepreneurial spirit with advanced connectivity with 1 Gigabit internet connection would create a supportive environment for start up businesses which could transform rural Ireland through the provision of sustainable jobs in the regions.

The Ludgate Hub, which is named after Skibbereen born accountant, Percy Ludgate who designed an analytical engine to carry out mathematical calculations in the early 1900s, is the creation of a group of local entrepreneurs, digital ambassadors and local business owners in Skibbereen.

The hub is located in a 10,000 square building on Townsend Street which was formerly a cinema and more recently a bakery donated by local businessman, John F ield who explained his motivation was to try and encourage businesses to start in Skibbereen and stem the tide of youth migration.

“I have watched, over the last 50 years, young people leaving west Cork year after year. This is our way of getting these young people back and keeping them in Skibbereen, where they want to stay,” said Mr Field who paid tribute to the board and staff of the Ludgate Hub for making it a reality.

The group were brought together by Baltimore native and Glen Dimplex Group President, Sean O ‘Driscoll who said that Ludgate was a community based project with the sole objective of creating sustainable jobs in West Cork which has been devastated by recession and emigration. 

“Today is a defining day for the future generations of Skibbereen,, West cork and rural Ireland - this is the moment that life in Skibbereen changes for ever... through Ludgate, Skibereen has consigned geographical disadvantage to history and levelled the playing field between rural and urban Ireland.”

Ludgate Hub Project Director, Grainne O’Dwyer explained that already 30 people have signed up to the use the hub during a start up phase aimed at creating 75 jobs and the aim is to facilitate the creation of 500 direct jobs by 2020 with a further 1,000 jobs predicted in a further phase.

She instanced the example of a similar project in Kansas where Googleprovided 1 Gigabit broadband to a local community and over 120 new businesses were established in the space of two years and she hoped that the Ludgate Hub would have a similar effect in West Cork.

Ms O’Dwyer said the hub doesn’t take any sales or customer service businesses but is focussing instead on web developers, app developers and digital design firms who can capitalise on the 1 gigabit connectivity with a focus on complementary rather than duplicating businesses.

“To date we have had around 180 inquiries and about 18 per cent of these inquiries are from members of the Irish diaspora who want to return to Ireland - we already have some emigrants who have returned from the US and from South Africa as well as Europe to work here,” she said.

Ms O’Dwyer explained the hub is determined to be competitive and so is charging €19 a day including VAT for a hotspot desk for an individual or €240 a month including VAT while it also offers a special community membership which ranges from €185 to €200 a month.

The broadband system is being provided by Siro - a joint venture between the ESB and Vodafone - and Siro CEO, Sean Atkinson said the company was investing €1 million in providing 100 per cent fibre option broadband network with 1 Gigabit connectivity to the hub and the entire town.

Written by Barry Roche

Source: The Irish Times 

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