Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD has today officially opened a 1 Gigabit digital hub in Skibbereen. The Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, which originally served as the local cinema from 1941 – 1981 and then a bakery, has been transformed into a 10,000 sq. ft digital hub which is the first of its kind in a non-urban area in Ireland.

The Ludgate Hub is part of an initiative which aims to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the West Cork region and seeks to create 500 jobs in five years with an initial 75+ jobs in the start-up phase. The hub is now fully operational and has over 30 people signed up and working from the premises. To date, the hub has attracted Irish emigrants such as David Carroll, a Skibbereen native to return from Marbella with his wife and two children. It has also helped to attract people from abroad to relocate to the town including Jane and Evan Sims from Chicago and Christopher Mason from Los Angeles.

Businesses operating from the Ludgate Hub have cited the “unparalleled broadband speed” as a primary reason for establishing operations in Ludgate. Vodafone Ireland is the telecoms partner to the project and SIRO, the ESB and Vodafone joint venture, is providing the 100% fibre-optic broadband network with 1 Gigabit connectivity. .

The AIB-backed initiative is the result of the efforts of a group of entrepreneurs, digital ambassadors and local business owners, who were brought together by West Cork resident and Glen Dimplex Group President, Seán O’Driscoll. The group operates as a non-profit company and has worked on a pro-bono basis over the last two years to bring the initiative to life. The board secured €1 million in investment to kickstart the project and create a digital blueprint for the town of Skibbereen. The group aim to put the town on the map as a beacon of innovation and to provide start-ups with the environment and mentoring support required to research and commercialise opportunities to compete on a global scale.

Speaking at the launch Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD said: “I’m delighted to be here in Skibbereen today to officially open the Ludgate Hub. One of my priorities as Minister is creating an environment where job growth can thrive, particularly in rural Ireland. I believe only a strong economy supporting people at work can pay for the services needed to create a fair society.”

Sean O’Driscoll President of the Glen Dimplex Group and board member of Ludgate stated: “At its core, the rationale behind the Ludgate Hub is employment which will help to create a sustainable future for rural areas. Over the last decade many towns and villages in West Cork, and indeed across Ireland, have been devastated by recession and emigration. The Ludgate Hub which is powered by 1,000 Mbps of broadband opens up enormous new opportunities for West Cork. This new digital age will make the impossible possible and consign geographic economical disadvantages to history and reinvigorate rural areas in its wake.”

Sean Atkinson, CEO of SIRO said: “The launch of the Ludgate Hub is the moment that life in Skibbereen changes forever as it opens up a new world of possibilities. We have already seen people and businesses relocating to Skibbereen from places like Barcelona and Chicago in anticipation of the launch, which just goes to show how important 100% fibre optic broadband technology is in attracting investment in rural Ireland. What’s more, as a Gigabit town, Skibbereen’s young people have the potential to create the next Google or Facebook right here rather than having to move to urban areas to fulfil their ambition.”

As well as the creation of the digital hub, the Ludgate group has facilitated a number of initiatives to facilitate community wide engagement of the 1 Gigabit connection. One project is the development of ‘eStreet’ a collaborative platform to encourage over 11 local retailers to trade online. This platform supported by An Post will be the first of its kind in Ireland and will enable rural communities to trade on a global platform. The local Coderdojo group, which teaches people of all ages and tech abilities to code, have also found welcomed residence in the hub and have subsequently doubled the number of participants. To stimulate international and national scalable startups, a €300,000 seed fund was launched in May and the hub will now welcome the first teams of successful applicants to the fund in the coming few months.

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