Up to 70% of people living in the countryside believe that technology can help halt rural decline.

A landmark study examining the urban-rural digital divide found that “up to 70% would welcome a future in which young people won’t have to move away from rural Ireland as there will be more work opportunities nearby thanks to technology”.

The study called Connected Futures, surveyed 1,000 people living in rural areas. It also found that 18% of those questioned have no access to broadband internet at all. This figure rose to 26% for those living in villages.

One in five people living in rural areas admitted having to go to venues outside their home to access the internet.

One of the more significant findings was in relation to older people and how they can benefit from technology. A combined 85% would welcome a future in which older people living alone will be monitored remotely.

According to the 2011 Census, there were 3.02 million people living outside Ireland’s five largest cities. About 1.8 million of these people are broadband users.

Of those surveyed, 74% agreed that it was easier for their families to stay in touch because of digital technology.

Up to 60% of people said they would welcome a future in which people in rural Ireland would not need to leave home to go to work in offices because they would be able to work from home much of the time.

However, 30% of people said that slow and unreliable internet speeds prevent them from working from home.

In terms of preventing forced migration to cities, 77% said they would welcome a role for digital technology in making it easier for people to start-up businesses in rural Ireland rather than having to relocate to major towns and cities.

 Ludgate Steering Committee member Leonard Donnelly, Vodafone director of strategy and corporateaffairs Ray Collins, and digital entrepreneur and founder of Digital Youth Council, Harry McCann.
Ludgate Steering Committee member Leonard Donnelly, Vodafone director of strategy and corporate

affairs Ray Collins, and digital entrepreneur and founder of Digital Youth Council, Harry McCann.

Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys said that the Government will be working to speed up the provision of broadband across Ireland.

“As part of my new remit for rural affairs, I will be working with local authorities and other agencies to help accelerate the roll-out of broadband in rural Ireland.

“The Government will also continue to work with commercial providers, including Vodafone Ireland, to identify the broadband blackspots which are in need of State intervention, so that we can ensure that within five years every home and business will have a high-speed connection,” said Ms Humphreys.

CEO of Vodafone Ireland, Anne O’Leary said that despite the urban-rural digital divide, people living outside our cities are still embracing technology.

“It is clear that people in rural Ireland are embracing technology and using it across all aspects of their lives but the digital divide still prevents many from participating fully in a ‘gigabit society’,” said Ms O’Leary.

The survey was carried out at the end of 2015, by Amarach Research on behalf of Vodafone Ireland.

Top findings from broadband survey of rural Ireland

72% of people use the internet to shop online

24% of people use the internet to view Netflix

63% of people use the internet for social networks

36% of people make use of the internet for Skype conversations

57% believe faster and better broadband would make life easier

One in four people use the internet at home in relation to work

19% of those working from home do so because of the internet

81% of people use the internet to check email

30% of people say slow, unreliable broadband prevents them from working from home

Three in four say rural Ireland is a better place to raise children

Three in four adults have broadband at home

Under half of over 65s have broadband at home

24% of people find their broadband too slow

25% of people would move to a city if broadband didn’t exist

63% of people feel that the internet delivers to them the same shopping options that are available to people living in cities

There are 1.8 million broadband users in rural Ireland

150,000 people choose to avoid commuting because they can connect to work via the internet

51% of people say access to the internet makes easier to meet people


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