WHEN she said: ‘We are witnessing a digital community in the making’ Anne O’Leary, CEO of Vodafone Ireland, summed up National Digital Week in Skibbereen in a single sentence.
Drimoleague native Sean O’Driscoll, head of Glen Dimplex, and a member of the Ludgate steering committee, said National Digital Week in dear old Skibbereen was trending ahead of the Web Summit in Dublin and a cheer went up around the conference room at the West Cork Hotel.
A second cheer went up when he announced that the conference organisers, the Ludgate steering committee, agreed to match the €150,000 in seed capital pledged by local philanthropist, Maurice Healy of the Healy Group, through a crowd funding initiative, thereby making €300,000 available to new start-up businesses.
The whole country now knows that Skibbereen has a new digital hub called Ludgate at Townshend Street, Skibbereen; that the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, has agreed to officially open it in December or January; and that 75 new jobs and businesses will be created initially, with the potential for hundreds more.
Vodafone has already delivered a 1 Gigabit Siro broadband network to Ludgate and construction will commence next summer to provide the same network to the rest of the town.
The Digital Week proved that Skibbereen is an excellent conference venue with an estimated 40% of attendees coming from outside of Cork. Throughout the week, the event hosts – The West Cork Hotel and The Southern Star – played an excellent game of tag – a good interchange of venues – that allowed everything to run with tremendous efficiency.
Adrienne Harrington, head of Data Protection at the Department of An Taoiseach, also attended the event and had a preview of the Ludgate hub at Townshend St, which is currently under construction.
Local entrepreneur, Leonard Donnelly, one of the organisers of the event, described what happened in Skibbereen as being similar to Google’s recent project to supply Kansas with 1 Gigabit of connectivity.
‘But in Skibbereen, this is 1 Gigabit up and down,’ he said, referring to both upload and download speeds, meaning it was a much more impressive and far-reaching project.
The Kansas project was also name-checked by Google’s Ronan Harris. He said: ‘People flocked into Google’s Kansas project, to get 1 Gigabit’ and that the Ludgate initiative in Skibbereen ‘is more significant that people realise.’
Lucan-native Harris, who owns a house in Baltimore, and called himself a ‘West Cork refugee’, also praised Ludgate’s Grainne Dwyer and Callum Donnelly who ran the Digital Week initiative.
‘I have been to events all around the world, and this,’ he said, ‘has been world class.’