Sligo a major contributor to the West of Ireland digital powerhouse, says Irish internet leader at Digital Town event

  • Sligo is Digital Town 2019, proudly promoted by IE Domain Registry: celebration event opened to public at The Model Gallery on Monday 14 October, which included speaker panel moderated by broadcaster Bobby Kerr
  • Sligo commended for its digital programmes and spaces, including The Building Block and Landing Space co-working hubs, IT Sligo , establishment of North West Tech Cluster and town infrastructure upgrades to include 5G broadband infrastructure
  • IE Domain Registry CEO says Irish towns that invest in digital infrastructure enjoy “more revenue”, “more jobs”, and “better access to public and private services”
  • Keynote speaker Phil Prentice says towns that lack state-of-the-art digital infrastructure should nevertheless maximise use of their existing assets: “While it’s always preferable to have high-speed broadband, a town can digitalise what it has. That often starts with addressing the ‘understanding’ gap.”

Sligo Town is fast becoming the West of Ireland’s ‘digital powerhouse’, according to David Curtin, Chief Executive of IE Domain Registry, the company that manages and maintains Ireland’s country domain name, .ie.

 Sligo was chosen as Ireland’s 2019 Digital Town for its achievements in community and commercial digitalisation, and its continued commitment to digital projects.

Sligo’s openness to digital technology is evident in its ability to attract investment of €225m across a range of areas, one being to facilitate the development of infrastructure capable of 5G broadband; establishment of the North West Tech Cluster; innovation and education supports for SMEs at IT Sligo and it’s creation of digital spaces, such as The Building Block and The Landing Space. It has attracted indigenous and international investment, increased revenues for high street shops*, facilitated new ways of learning at Sligo schools**, and made interacting with and using public services more efficient for citizens. Sligo is also treading new ground in attracting highly specialised tech companies like Overstock, LiveTiles and Abtran to the West.

Sligo’s digital capabilities have connected the town to Ireland’s growing network of regional digital hubs, many of whom are following the pioneering example set by the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen. Their digital infrastructure has kept professionals, and their salaries and families, in the local areas, and made Ireland’s regions viable places for long-term commercial investment.

“Digital technology is empowering. For local businesses, it can help them generate more revenue, streamline their operations, and connect to new markets. For the local community, it can mean better access to public and private services, less isolation for people who live in remote locations, more opportunities for education, and more jobs,” said Mr Curtin.

“Sligo has invested in its digital infrastructure to great effect. To take just one example, the Building Block co-working space, which acts like a magnet for Irish and international companies and provides a space for remote workers who would otherwise have to commute to another town or city.

“With continued commitment to these initiatives and programmes, Sligo will continue to be a digital powerhouse for the West of Ireland, contributing economically and socially to its development.”

Head of Sligo County Council, Mr Ciarán Hayes comments: “Over the last number of years Sligo has made significant advances in moving online. We are particularly proud of our recent investments in the town, which include a €225m upgrade of infrastructure inclusive of infrastructure capable of hosting 5G broadband, and enhancement of the public realm to include free public Wi-Fi. This cements our commitment to digital transformation and providing top-class facilities for businesses and citizens.”

While Sligo is pushing ahead, Connacht as a whole is not without its challenges. According to IE Domain Registry’s upcoming Digital Health Index report, as many as 4 in 10 (39%) Connacht-Ulster SMEs rate their internet connection as ‘average’, ‘poor’, or ‘very poor’. Just under two-thirds of Connacht-Ulster SMEs do not have any confidence in the government’s ability to deliver the National Broadband Plan in its current form.

Phil Prentice, Chief Officer of the Scotland’s Towns Partnership, is the keynote speaker at the Digital Town event in Sligo.

“A town does not need an elaborate infrastructure to be digital, and it’s far better to do something than nothing at all.” said Mr Prentice.

“While it’s always preferable to have high-speed broadband, a town can digitalise what it has. That often starts with addressing the ‘understanding’ gap.

“Businesses and citizens frequently fail to grasp how their lives can be simplified or made more efficient or cost-effective by using digital technology. They harbour misconceptions and can overstate what’s required to ‘become’ digital.”

Mr Curtin agrees: “IE Domain Registry reports have shown that the vast majority of SMEs don’t do more online because of concerns about investments of time, money, and skills.

“But the reality is different now. Access to digital technology has been vastly improved over the last decade; it’s easier, faster and more affordable than ever before to get online, communicate with customers, and start selling products and services.

“Waiting for the National Broadband Plan to create or implement the perfect digitalisation strategy is the wrong approach. Irish towns should instead focus on bridging the understanding gap: help local businesses and community organisations understand and use digital technologies by focusing investment in skills training and education programmes. That way, they will see a much quicker social and economic returns on their investment.”

Mr Curtin will opened the Digital Town event at The Model Gallery this morning, 14 October. Mr Prentice, Chief Officer of the Scotland’s Towns Partnership, in addition to his keynote address,  joined a panel of speakers at the event.

The panel, moderated by broadcaster Bobby Kerr, included Ciarán Hayes, CEO of Sligo County Council; Brendan McCormack, President of IT Sligo; David Kenny, Chair of Tech North West and Vice President of Software Development at Overstock; Oonagh McCutcheon, Customer Operations Manager at IE Domain Registry; and Conor McCarthy, President of the Sligo Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

 

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