Ireland’s Inaugural ‘Digital First’ Day Announced

Ireland’s first-ever ‘Digital First’ Day will take place on November 16th 2022 with the goal of putting the power of digital to work in communities across the country, by creating a national conversation about the benefits of digital growth to people, organisations and communities in towns and villages across Ireland.

Driven by a new collaboration, Digital Ireland Network, Ireland’s 262 ConnectedHubs will be encouraged to host seminars, meetups or workshops for their locality around the theme of the benefits of digital growth. The wider vision is to develop a national network of ‘Digital First Communities’ – a new approach to empowering rural localities to collaborate to use digital growth to attract investment, remote workers, home buyers, shoppers and visitors to their community, thus advancing sustainable regional development and quality of life.

Speaking about the initiative, Heather Humphreys, Minister for Social Protection and Minister for Rural and Community Development said “This is a vitally important initiative that brings together key components of a number of significant Government policies, not least my own Department’s National Social Enterprise Policy and Our Rural Future. The role of digital development to support balanced regional development cannot be overstated. Central to this is the need to close the digital divide, both at an individual level and in collective terms.

Communities must be supported to leverage new technologies and new ways of doing things to ensure growth. This is why my department is driving forward the connectedhubs.ie platform and has invested more than €100m into the hub sector in recent years. There will be approximately 300 hubs on the connectedhubs.ie network by the end of this year and at least 400 in 2024. This is a national resource that has endless potential to support innovations such as Digital First Day. I want vibrant, bustling towns and villages and this initiative will certainly contribute to that ambition.”

Hubs of all types and sizes, associations, groups or volunteers are all welcome to run an event on 16th November around the theme of the benefits of digital growth. A full pack will be provided to event hosts to support the success of their event including guides, marketing and digital activation resources. Applications to register your interest in holding an event will open today, 2nd August on www.digital-ireland.ie. The ‘Digital First’ Day initiative is part funded through the Department of Rural & Community Development ARISE fund.

Tomás Ó’Síocháin CEO Western Development Commission said “The pandemic has led to huge changes in the way we work and live. Research by the WDC has shown that people have moved in significant numbers to rural and regional areas. To sustain that, we need to build on those changes and support individuals, communities and SMEs to meet the digital challenges, and opportunities ahead.

We believe that the new ‘Digital First’ Day, delivered by the Digital Ireland Network, can help achieve this by fostering the growth of ‘Digital First Communities’. We are delighted to be a founding member of the Digital Ireland Network, a network of ‘Digital First Communities’ operating out of local Connected Hubs. We hope that over time Digital Ireland’s ‘Digital First’ Day will help to sustain and develop the transition to more balanced regional development and equality of opportunity for all. ”

Eoin Costello, DigitalHQ clg, said “ ‘Digital First’ Day will bring the community into their local Connected Hub while digital will bring the impact of the hub out into the local community! It’s a win/win.”

A dedicated website for the network has been created at www.digital-ireland.ie where ConnectedHubs members, organisations and members of the public can register their interest in staging an event for ‘Digital First’ Day. The choice of event is up to the host however a range of topics will be supported through materials and resources by Digital Ireland Network including:

—  How to set up a ‘Digital First Community’ in your locality.
—  How to implement the Digital Growth Mindset for small businesses.
—  How to create a digital-enabled social enterprise to address a need in your locality.
—  Holding an open day for your hub.

This initiative is being driven and promoted by the newly formed Digital Ireland Network, a network dedicated to ‘Reimagining Rural Ireland’. The founding organisations include ConnectedHubs.ie, DigitalHQ .IE, the Heritage Council, DLR County Council, the Western Development Commission and Grow Remote. The network’s main objective is to establish ‘Digital First Communities’ in towns and villages across the country, in particular through the creation of a social enterprise as a key mechanism to foster economic growth at the grassroots level.

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