By Siobhán Cronin
WHAT could become a template for other rural areas around the world was unveiled in Skibbereen last Friday, with the launch of Ireland’s first digital hub outside Dublin.
Ludgate, which boasts a commitment of 1GB of connectivity from Vodafone, will be an internet hub in the centre of the town, offering huge potential to new and existing firms wanting a high-speed web presence.
The hub was launched by Communications Minister Alex White at the Uillinn West Cork Arts Centre.
The steering committee behind Ludgate – which features an impressive line-up of chief executives and managing directors from major companies – is hoping this initiative can be copied by other communities, both here and abroad.
It was also announced last Friday that Siro – a joint initiative between Vodafone and ESB – has selected Skibbereen to take part in a major digital pilot project next year.
The project will see the town becoming one of just 50 locations nationwide to test Ireland’s first 100% fibre-optic broadband network.
The ESB is allowing Vodafone to piggy-back on its network, in order to provide broadband to the remotest areas of the country – the first time this has been done in Europe on a national scale.
Ludgate, backed by Sean O’Driscoll of electrical giant Glen Dimplex, Dee Forbes of TV firm Discovery Networks, Anne O’Leary, Vodafone Ireland ceo and Lord David Puttnam, seeks to have 75 hot-desks in situ by November.
The company will be based at the former Field’s bakery on Townshend Street, and has a target of 500 jobs within five years. John Field and Adam Walsh of Field’s are also members of the steering group.
Internet entrepreneur Leonard Donnelly said the figure of 500 jobs was very achievable, given the attraction of West Cork to many people, once they had a guaranteed broadband link. And that link has been secured, thanks to Vodafone.
Meanwhile, the Siro project means that many more companies will be able to boost their web capabilities from next year, in tandem with the expected growth of the Ludgate hub.
Sean Atkinson CEO of SIRO said: ‘Skibbereen has a ‘fantastic business ecosystem’, adding that Siro is behind the provision of the 1GB fibre connectivity to the Ludgate hub.