COVID-19 has forced all of our community, businesses, education and public services to accelerate their move to digital processes and to improve their digital skills out of real necessity. These skills have become even more necessary and many, people and organisations, have adapted well making changes although, often, it is a first step.
“This need for digital skills and knowledge is only going to grow and will certainly not diminish after the crisis. We are only at the start of what is often termed the fourth industrial revolution with far-reaching impacts on society and business and the need to adopt digital technology in a transformative way”, explains Dr Margaret Quinn, Donegal Digital Project Manager. A positive aspect is that the current necessity of digitalisation has opened up people’s mind-sets, they can adapt and change to grasp new technology and hopefully reap the benefits. Many organisations took up innovation vouchers from the Local Enterprise Office to get their business online and are availing of a wide range of digital courses to support digital marketing, online buying and selling, team collaboration online etc. from local agencies. “It is a start but many, especially small businesses who lack the needed competence are challenged and some have not yet made any move to go digital”, continues Margaret.
There are some great local supports to go digital e.g., LEO Donegal, Údarás na Gaeltachta and Inishowen Development Partnership, all Donegal Digital partners, who can advise businesses on how to take those first steps. According to the Project Manager, “all of society is now pushed to become digitally literate as in lockdown we learn, shop, communicate, socialise, consume services, get advice etc all online. Here again it is likely a mixed picture with the danger of a growing digital divide and some lacking confidence, skills, infrastructure to join this digital world”.
What are the plans for the future?
Donegal Digital partnership plans to continue working together by proposing and completing actions that can be delivered by the county’s development organisations, acting jointly, over a reasonable time period and supporting achievement of other strategies in the overall Donegal Local Economic and Community Plan (LECP) initiative. Moreover, the partnership continues growing and welcoming further organisations. The last four joining the team have been Donegal Local Enterprise Office, North West Regional Skillsnet, Donegal ETB and Donegal Local Development Company.
From the second half of 2021, the focus will move to planning on achieving a ‘Smart Region’ by promoting a transition to a low carbon economy via adoption of green technologies, smart energy management, renewables and energy efficiency; deployment of an intelligent infrastructure through Internet of Things (IoT) and related services in key public infrastructure points in Donegal as a resource for tourism; Regional Spatial Planning, built on County's expertise in Geographical Information System (GIS) and co-production methods to pilot next generation planning systems that use Virtual Reality (VR) / Augmented Reality (AR) and e-building standards; and the development of the capacity of Donegal's communities to exploit digital services in the social, educational, culture and tourism arenas.
Donegal Digital partners recognise that Letterkenny Institute of technology, LYIT, has a central role in the County’s future in the digital and knowledge economy and eagerly anticipate its expected status within the Connacht-Ulster Technological University in 2022. The partnership will continue to work as an advocate for bolstering of investment in the digital research capacity of LYIT and for strengthening support for university-industry collaboration.