One of the priority tasks for Donegal Digital in 2021 is to work with Letterkenny Institute of Technology to develop and promote a plan to increase investment in Donegal’s digital research capacity. Speaking with Dr Margaret Quinn, Donegal Digital Project Manager, she explains that this is a crucial area for the future, “a strategic foundation for the County to thrive in the knowledge economy with the availability of advanced digital knowledge and applied research skills to support key sectors. Currently we are building the business case, recognising that advanced research is a radiator for innovation and economic growth and is of ever-increasing importance”.
In addition, partners are working in a number of different areas. One is ‘Digital Foundations’ in which we highlight three actions: the continued rollout of the national broadband plan, completion of the public Wi-Fi program and Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). “We envisage that a number of the BCPs will evolve into remote working or smaller digital hubs as time goes on. We have also formed a digital skills sub-group and currently it is developing a prototype for a Donegal Digital Skills window or portal to make it easier for companies, communities and people to access the digital training they need”, continues Margaret.
Another area in which the partnership will be focused during 2021 is ‘Digital Innovation’. Donegal Digital partners are working to strengthen and expand the hubs network, grow the existing ICT SME Cluster; increase the use of Industry 4.0 advanced manufacturing techniques (through the EU-funded DIGITAL REGIONS project); establish a mechanism to systematically collect, organise and exploit public sector open innovation data (this will initially focus on energy efficiency data through the EU CLEAN project); establish a number of Living Labs and Open Innovation test-beds and methods to facilitate rollout of new digital solutions from companies and the 3rd level to the public sector.
Covid-19 and remote working
“The pandemic has had dramatic impacts and definitely not good for the most part as we all know. However, a very positive one is the rise in remote working”, adds Margaret. Even once the crisis is over, it is likely that remote working will remain to a large degree because “it works well for many employees who find a better work life balance and can be just as productive”. Also, businesses are adapting, changing their processes for remote personnel / teams and possibly to reduce costs on premises and even maybe to simply retain their staff. The Council has launched a very effective strategy promoting the County as a prime remote working location, highlighting that there is great connectivity and really wonderful quality of life here. “The trend can be of great benefit to the County, in prosperity from the spending power of new people and in enriching or communities with the skills and experience they bring. The Digital Innovation Hubs have a key role in remote working by acting as an environment to support remote workers with co-working space, to facilitate networking, socialisation, sharing of ideas, collaboration and potentially sparking new business”, she concludes.