Ambitious plans drawn up by Cork County Council will make it easier for people to work remotely from their communities. The move may reverse rural decline.
With many people having to work from home during the Covid-19 pandemic, the local authority is taking steps to bolster remote working. It will also have the knock-on effect of reducing carbon emissions.
Sharon Corcoran, head of the council’s Economic Development Directorate, said the council has appointed a rural digital hub innovation officer to aid community groups to fast-track the introduction of 22 hotdesk-type centres in the county.
Ms Corcoran said the officer will also focus on the bigger picture which will “include developing a business case to access funding to build a number of digital innovation hubs around the county.”
Ms Corcoran said the council has also appointed specialist consultants Abodoo to draw up a countywide list of skills of people who might be willing and able to work in their communities, rather than travelling long distances to work.
It is hoped the result of Abodoo’s online survey will provide the council with clusters of people willing to work in their communities and they would be facilitated in doing this by the council creating a number of ‘digital hubs.’
“This would enable people to travel maybe 10 miles [16km] to a hub rather than the 50 mile commute that they currently take to their place of work. This outbreak has probably fast-tracked the whole idea of people working more remotely,” she said.
In the meantime it’s hoped the officer will help many of the 22 community groups to set up their own hot-desking centres.
“This is about sustainable working into the future. It will help regenerate rural areas and cut down on our carbon footprint,” Ms Corcoran said.
Tom O’Mara, UCC’s head of digital education, who has helped more than 26,000 students and staff do their work online, praised the council’s plan to create digital hubs.
“They are a great idea, especially if they are run properly like the Ludgate Hub [Skibbereen]. I think that the National Broadband Plan is a complete farce. Covid-19 could be an opportunity for the Government to say these are now extraordinary circumstances and cancel that contract. We would be far better off with hubs in towns,” Mr O’Mara said.