The secret to unlocking the wealth of the regions

A friend of mine was discussing work recently. He was observing the challenges and opportunities associated with the chronic commuting times that many people have to endure around Dublin.

Why is it, he wondered, that people have to spend hours in cars, trains and buses to sit at desks using computer terminals all day?

These journeys to and from work take up a huge amount of time while adding emissions to the environment and clogging up urban areas with activity that offers little to the overall economy.

If we could crack the model of remote working, would that benefit quality of life, while helping the overall economy?

While not getting much public attention some businesses allow their employees to work either at or close to home using web-based systems to interface with their colleagues.

Surely, there is an opportunity across the private and public sectors to build this idea out. Instead of traipsing to and from work every day spend that commuting time doing better things while still meeting the productivity required by employers.

Another key benefit from such an approach to work would be to energise urban and rural areas outside of Dublin. We continue, in February 2019, to see family homes on offer at prices outside of Dublin that are materially cheaper than those in the capital.

Schools access is often better, too, while the health benefits of working and living outside the capital in better quality air are undisputed.

The pace at which technology is advancing in support of such a concept is passing by policymakers and planners. Broadband was an unreliable and expensive piece of infrastructure just 10 years ago. In 10 years time imagine what will be possible.

Video conferencing and live work on documents and presentations, which are now available in large offices, will be possible without interruption at a domestic level.

That connects colleagues and employees in ways that were not feasible as recently as a decade ago.

I’m convinced this is the secret to unlocking the regional Irish economy.

A wave of investment behind broadband by private and public entities can deliver the virtual piping needed to create this communications infrastructure. The public sector can play a major part in this evolution.

While the attempts at regionalising state bodies was botched 20 years ago it should not deter a new initiative in the area. Why are so many state bodies and government departments confined to Dublin?

That system was appropriate at a time when physical communications and transport were limits to decision making. In today’s world such a structure is Victorian.

If the public service can display an ability to tap developing broadband abilities to energise its employees successfully outside Dublin it could showcase pathfinders for the private sector too.

Ireland needs imaginative thinking to address the hurdles posed by growth, congestion and rising living costs around the capital. Some positive thinking and actions around using mobile broadband outside Dublin is part of the solution.

Joe Gill is director of origination and corporate broking with Goodbody Stockbrokers. His views are personal.

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