Over a century ago, a man from Skibbereen had a moment of brilliance. Percy Ludgate designed an analytical engine – a precursor to modern computing as we know it. It just goes to shows how a moment has the potential to change the world. Here, in his hometown, the Ludgate Hub now offers businesses the chance for their opportunity to shine. And now SIRO’s broadband brings instant connectivity to regional Ireland with speeds of 1 Gigabit per second, transforming regional Ireland’s ability to communicate and compete with urban hubs.
A beacon of innovation for rural Ireland, Skibbereen can inspire the country as an extraordinary example of a town that leads the way for digital development. Pioneering a digital revolution in Skibbereen, Ludgate is a new digital initiative that launched in August 2015. Spearheaded by a group of forward thinking entrepreneurs, digital ambassadors and local business owners all with connections to West Cork, the Ludgate Hub initiative is the first of its kind in rural Ireland.
Bringing to life the future of digital technology, the SIRO powered Ludgate Hub is leading the way for rural connectivity. Powered by light, SIRO’s unrivalled speed of 1 Gigabit connectivity will give the people of Skibbereen the opportunity to make many more momentous discoveries just like Percy Ludgate.
The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, Co. Cork is located in the periphery of the South West of Ireland. With a 1000MB connection the Ludgate Hub utilises the digital age for job creation and innovation.
The initiative aims to facilitate up to 75 people in a creative co-working environment with a long term objective to facilitate 500 direct jobs and 1000 indirect jobs via a sustainable digital economy for Skibbereen and the wider West Cork area. As featured in the case study in the Action Plan for Jobs, South West (2015 – 2017) the Ludgate Hub is cited as an example of innovation occurring in rural Ireland and a blue print for other rural areas. Skibbereen has also been selected as a pilot town for SIRO, and 1GB of connectivity is now rolled out to the Ludgate Hub and town of Skibbereen creating a 1GB community.
To date, significant private investment has been committed to the construction of the Ludgate Hub, with a board of thirteen operating on a pro-bono basis. The board has vocally pushed for the acceleration of Skibbereen and West Cork's digitisation. Digitisation of rural Ireland is akin to the electrification of Ireland, the influence of the digital economy will be the driving force in balancing the rural economic environment. The Hub which formally a cinema from 1941-1981, then a bakery to the mid 00s and was then left unoccupied. Board member John Field made the Bakery Building available towards the initiative. The hub which is in the centre of Skibbereen town is now a beacon of innovation and has already started to encourage fringe enterprises as a spin off.
The Ludgate Board is determined to achieve all ambitious goals, ultimately resulting in a return of the diaspora, creating an ecosystem of creativity and innovation, and progressing the facilitation of job growth via digital technology. The long term vision is to make Skibbereen a hotspot for technology start-ups and multinationals to locate and prosper at a global level.
Creating a digital roadmap for Skibbereen & other rural areas
Stage I (2016 – 2017)
Stage II (2017 -2020)
This Gigabit Society has the ability to unlock the enormous potential in rural Ireland. Communities that have traditionally been ravaged by economic recession, emigration and isolation will be able to use the Internet to facilitate a new way of doing business, of organising community and of socialising.
We can only be made stronger by a rising tide of interconnectivity. If you look at the current housing crises which effects Dublin most of all, you can see that it is a result of the need to live and work near the capital. There are then the knock-on effects of a high demand for housing and pressure on public services such as hospitals and schools.
Facilitating high speed broadband in rural areas would reduce the need for people to move to larger urban areas, thus allowing the communities to grow organically and to sustain that growth into the future. It could fundamentally shift the social and economic landscape in the least densely populated areas of Ireland and start a new age of connectivity and prosperity.
The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen is leading the way as a demonstration of what is possible if a rural community is given access to high speed broadband. It is one thing to wax lyrical about a connected future, it’s quite another to put it into practice and witness the real benefits it brings to the local community.
“This puts Skibbereen ahead of many other towns in Ireland and that is very unusual for a town like Skibbereen in South West Cork”, says John Field. “Our vision is not just to catch up on other towns, but to move ahead of them. The connectivity and the Digital Hub offer the town something tangible and very significant in that respect.”
The advent of gigabit broadband has enabled the creation of a virtual shopping mall in Skibbereen, Ireland’s most southerly town. An initial group of ten retailers are being assisted in the process of becoming fully fledged e-tailers as part of an initiative of the Ludgate Hub.
E-street, as the new mall has been dubbed, will enable retailers in the town to reach out to customers across the South West Cork region and further afield.
For the most part, the retailers involved already have an online presence but the move to E-street will introduce them to online trading. “Some of them already have websites but they are not e-commerce enabled”, explains E-street manager Gillean Guy. “We are bringing the businesses along each step on the journey to becoming fully e-commerce enabled. We are also working with a firm to provide a joint shipping service for all of the retailers. The firm will drop off and pick up from a central depot a few times a week.”
The next phase will see service businesses being included in the initiative. “We have concentrated on businesses which are selling products in the first phase. In the second wave we will start to look at services like businesses selling tickets for cruises and other tourism offerings.”
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