Two business leaders who helped create Ireland’s first digital rural hub in a West Cork town have been named Cork Persons of the Month for July.
Sean O’Driscoll and John Field, founding board members of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, were recognised for their work developing and promoting the facility which uses high-speed internet connectivity to pioneer ‘smart’, flexible and remote working in a rural setting.
Mr Field, who won ‘The Outstanding West Cork Business Ambassador’ award at the West Cork Business and Tourism Awards last year, celebrates JJ Field’s 85th year in business this year. He offered the building for use as the digital hub.
Mr O’Driscoll, from Drimoleague, is a highly successful and well-known Irish business leader. He is a former chair and chief executive of the Glen Dimplex Group, a former partner in KPMG, a former director of Allied Irish Banks, and a former member of a number of other Government appointed Advisory Groups. He was elected chair of the Economic and Social Research Institute’s council in May.
The Ludgate Hub was developed in a former bakery building in Skibbereen town in 2015 and opened for business in 2016.
With 1 Gigabit broadband connectivity, it allowed regional Ireland to communicate and compete with urban hubs.
A number of businesses operate at Ludgate in the tech, bio-economy, aviation services, e-commerce and media production sectors.
A report last year revealed that the hub generates over €4.2m a year for the local economy and had created 54 new jobs directly and 38 indirectly.
The study, by economist Jim Power, said a similar digital hub in every county in Ireland could generate over 1,000 new businesses and 8,400 new jobs.
Ever before the pandemic forced tens of thousands of office workers to work from home, the Ludgate was described as the model for the future of rural Ireland.
Six years ago, Mr Field offered the use of the building to house the Ludgate Hub.
Mr O’Driscoll used his extensive network to create a strong board including a number of influential people in Irish business and academia, all of whom work on a pro-bono basis.
The board members include Kevin Buckley of Spearline, Oliver Farrell of Vilicom Engineering, Dee Forbes of RTÉ, Ronan Harris of Google, Brian McCarthy of Fexco, John O’Doherty of AIB, Anne O’Leary of Vodafone Ireland, Rosaleen Blair of CBE, Professor John O’Halloran of UCC, Anne Philips, formerly of HSBC and Adam Walsh of JJ Field.
Lord David Puttnam has also been heavily involved in supporting and promoting the work at Ludgate.
“Digitisation of rural Ireland is akin to the electrification of Ireland in the past and John Field and Sean O’Driscoll want to make Skibbereen, a hotspot for technology start-ups and multinationals to locate and prosper at a global level,” Cork Person of the Year awards organiser, Manus O’Callaghan, said.
Mr O’Driscoll said the Ludgate has worked because it has the full support and involvement of the local community.
“Now high-speed connectivity is consigning geography to history. This is the model for rural Ireland’s future,” he said.
Their names now go forward for possible selection as the Cork Person of the Year at a gala awards lunch in the Rochestown Park Hotel on January 15 next.
The awards scheme is sponsored by the Irish Examiner, The Echo, RTÉ, Southern, Lexus Cork, AM O’Sullivan PR, Cork Crystal, Tony O’Connell Photography, CAVS, Musgrave MarketPlace.