No island is an island
Digital hubs are making island communities viable places to do business, writes Billy MacInnes
23 April 2019 | 0
I’m always interested to see stories concerning people outside Dublin and the larger urban centres such as Galway, Cork and Limerick, doing what they can to give other parts of Ireland a fighting chance when it comes to retaining people in their own environs, especially if it involves technology. This is mainly because they serve to counter-balance all those instances where technology – or the lack of access to it – has been the major driver for people leaving their home locations to go and work in centres such as Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick.
So I viewed the story about Arranmore island’s efforts to retain and attract people by establishing a digital hub there, in partnership with Three Ireland, as a very welcome development. Only 22% of the island’s population is employed with 29% retired, 32% in education and 17% unemployed, looking for their first job or caring for other people.
Lack of connectivity had made it very difficult for people to work remotely from the island or to set up a business there. Thanks to Arranmore Business Council, Donegal Co Council and Three Ireland, the island now has a 13 desk digital hub in a state of the art work environment and conferencing facilities all connected with super fast broadband.
A number of local business and community facilities are also benefiting from Three’s Business broadband + solution, including the local medical centre which can now provide video consultations, reducing the requirement for patients to embark on the four-hour round trip to the nearest hospital in Letterkenny.
Similarly, the news that data centre developer Atlantic Hub is developing two mega scale campuses on Donegal and Derry is also a cause for celebration. If you haven’t been made aware of it yet, the plan involves offering Tier 4 data centre services with direct connection to the US to businesses, along with 160,000sq ft of high-tech office accommodation.
The company states that “the strategically chosen locations” take advantage of the natural geographical benefits of a central time-zone for daily business transactions with USA, Europe and Asia, and the beneficial local climate of Ireland’s North West. When the local climate “is combined with an innovative data hall cooling design that optimises airflow management for cooling efficiencies, the centres will target an industry-leading Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) < 1.2”.
Managing director Brian Doherty, believes the sites could help enable people to stay in the area by offering them attractive careers locally while giving them a better quality of life than elsewhere. He says the company is “immensely proud” to be bringing the project to the North West. “For a long time, the region has not been seen as an economic driver despite its immense potential to be one for both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland,” he remarks.
Doherty argues not will be “a major economic enabler for the North West” because areas wheee data centres are developed tend to attract other industries and to help create digital ecosystems.
In addition, this initiative is “very well aligned to the Irish Government’s priority of moving more data centres to regional locations and avoiding an over reliance on the greater Dublin region and its energy capacity”. Given the “negligible latency” between Dublin and the North West, Doherty argues companies will be able to “benefit from the lower operational costs in the region with compromising on speeds”.
It’s cheering to see examples of businesses and local communities helping to regenerate and redevelop local areas outside the main conurbations and to play a part in slowing the drift to the cities and largest towns. It’s good to see technology playing a part in that process.