· Workers can now book desk space in their local hub via new Mobile App
· 200 hubs on connected hubs network – making Remote Working a reality for thousands
· National Awareness Campaign launched to promote the benefits of working from a Hub in your community
· €5 million Connected Hubs Fund to enhance Remote Working facilities
The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced a number of major new initiatives that will support Remote Working across the country.
For the first time, workers will now be able to book office or desk space in their local hub through a new mobile app called Connected Hubs.
Minister Humphreys also announced €5 million in funding, through the Connected Hubs 2022 Call, which will be used to build capacity and enhance existing Remote Working facilities.
These initiatives will be underpinned by a major new National Awareness Campaign, designed to promote the many benefits of choosing your local hub for your working day. The Awareness Campaign will be run by the Department of Rural and Community Development with the support of the Western Development Commission (WDC).
Minister Humphreys also revealed today that the number of Remote Working facilities on the Connected Hubs Network will exceed 200 this week. This represents over half of the 400 hubs pledged as part of Our Rural Future, the Government’s landmark rural development policy.
Announcing the series of initiatives at the Mill Enterprise Centre in Drogheda, Co Louth, Minister Humphreys said:
“If COVID-19 has taught us one thing – it’s that the benefits of Remote Working are huge.
“Less time spent commuting. A lower carbon footprint. More time spent with family and friends. But above all – a better quality of life.
“Over the past two years, we have embarked on a mission never seen before. My Department has invested €100million in the development of remote working facilities in our towns and villages nationwide.
“Across Ireland, we have taken many old and derelict buildings and re-purposed them into state-of-the-art Remote Working facilities.
“Former banks, cinemas, garda stations, convents and train stations have become local digital hubs.
“In addition we have provided funding to upgrade and enhance existing hub facilities.
“These are now part of a new network called ‘Connected Hubs’ – which is at the forefront of our efforts to make Remote Working a reality for tens of thousands of workers.”
Minister Humphreys added:
“Today represents the next chapter in our Remote Working journey. And it also demonstrates how we are putting ‘Our Rural Future’ into action.
“I’m really pleased to launch the new Connected Hubs mobile app which will enable workers to book their desk space in their local hub with ease.
“The number of hubs available on the Connected Hubs network will this week surpass the 200 mark meaning we are already halfway to our target of 400 hubs nationwide as committed under Our Rural Future.
“Today I am also launching a new €5million Connected Hubs Fund which will aimed at upgrading and increasing capacity in our existing hub facilities. In addition, over the coming weeks and months, I will be announcing further funding for the development of new remote working facilities as part of Our Rural Future.
“So my message to remote workers today is clear: Whether you are in Donegal or Waterford, Louth or in Kerry, East Coast, Midlands or along the Border, we have a hub for you.”
Minister Humphreys concluded:
“Thankfully we are now beginning to return to normal life, but that does not mean we should go back to the old normal – the days of the long commute, sitting in traffic when you could be spending that time with your family and friends.
“Equally not everybody wants to or has the space to work from home permanently. The kitchen table or your bedroom is not a permanent solution. If you want a clear line of where work-life ends and family-life begins – then working from your local hub is the solution for you.
“Today, I am also specifically encouraging employers and businesses to look at the facilities available through Connected Hubs when developing their future plans for blended or hybrid working. These hubs can enable your staff to work in a safe, secure environment with high-speed broadband and all the necessary office equipment available to them.
“Over the coming weeks, my Department will embark on a major awareness campaign to highlight the benefits of Connected Hubs for both workers and employers”.
Our Rural Future
Our Rural Future is the whole-of-government policy for rural Ireland for the period 2021-2025. It represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development policy for Ireland and adopts a more strategic, ambitious and holistic approach to investing in and maximising opportunities for rural areas.
National Hub Network
One of the commitments provided in the five-year policy is to establish a comprehensive and integrated national network of 400 Remote Working Hubs over the lifetime of the policy (to include a central booking platform for users). The National Connected Hubs network was launched in May 2021 and initially had some 60 hubs onboarded onto the connected hubs.ie platform. This has grown substantially and this week the number will exceed 200 hubs live on the connectedhubs.ie platform.
Connected Hubs Mobile App
The launch of the connected hubs mobile app will allow users to find their nearest hub facility and easily book a desk space using their mobile device. The Connected Hubs mobile app can be downloaded from the Apple App Store for iOS devices and the Google Play Store for Android.
€5million Connected Hubs Call 2022
The primary objective of the Connected Hubs Call 2022, which is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, is to support and complement the development of the National Hub Network, which is a key action of the Rural Development Policy – Our Rural Future and also the National Remote Working Strategy – Making Remote Work. The Connected Hubs Call 2022 aims to add additional capacity to the existing remote working infrastructure in Ireland by upgrading existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). This funding is in addition to €8.8million provided for 117 remote working projects across the country in 2021.
Details of the Connected Hubs 2022 Call are available at https://www.gov.ie/en/service/16b47-connected-hubs-fund/?referrer=http://www.gov.ie/en/service/c5849b-rural-funding/?section=connected-hubs-fund
Investment in Remote Working Facilities
The Department of Rural and Community Development has to date invested €100million in the development of remote working facilities under programmes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. Many of these projects are focused on the regeneration of vacant town centre buildings. Further funding for the development of new remote working facilities will be announced throughout 2022.