Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys Announces Series Of New Initiatives To Support Remote Working

  • New voucher scheme to give remote workers free access to their local digital hub
  • At least 10,000 hot desk facilities to be provided free of charge to existing hub users and those using the facilities for the first time
  • €5 million investment under ‘Connected Hubs’ to improve 81 remote working facilities nationwide
  • Local Authorities to each receive €50,000 in funding to promote remote working opportunities in their areas
  • Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, has today announced a series of new initiatives that will make remote working more accessible and attractive for thousands of people.

Minister Humphreys launched the Connected Hubs Voucher Scheme, which will give remote workers free use of their local digital hub.
At least 10,000 hot desk spaces will be provided under the Scheme, which is aimed at both existing hub users, as well as those accessing hub facilities for the first time.
Minister Humphreys also announced €5 million in funding, through the Connected Hubs 2022 Call, which will be used to build capacity and enhance existing Remote Working facilities.
Some 81 projects across the country were successful in securing funding.
On top of these 2 initiatives, Minister Humphreys also today announced the provision of €50,000 in funding to each Local Authority under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
This will allow them to fund marketing campaigns and promote the remote working opportunities available in their areas.
Minister Humphreys also revealed today that the number of Remote Working facilities on the Connected Hubs Network has now reached 242.
This represents over 60 per cent of the 400 hubs pledged as part of Our Rural Future, the government’s landmark 5-year rural development policy.
Announcing the 3 initiatives at the Creative Spark Digital Hub in Dundalk, Ministers Humphreys said:

“As Minister for Rural and Community Development, I am serious about ensuring we don’t simply revert to the ‘old normal’ – the way of life we had before COVID-19. When I meet remote workers across the country, they tell me all about the benefits of spending a few days each week working from a digital hub in their local community. They talk about how their lives are improved now that they don’t have to embark on that early morning, gruelling commute to Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway or other urban centres. Remote Working has been a game-changer for thousands of people. It’s given people of all ages a better quality of life – allowing them to spend more time with their family friends, working within their local town or village. So today, I am absolutely delighted to announce a series of new measures that represent the next chapter in our Remote Working journey.”

Minister Humphreys continued:

“The Connected Hubs Voucher scheme I am announcing today will provide at least 10,000 free days at hot desks in hubs across the country. It will be available to existing hub users who are already enjoy the benefits of working from a hub in their local area. But it is aimed at new users too. For example, I believe this scheme will appeal to someone who has never worked for their local hub – now they can try it out for the first time for free. This scheme is based on the ‘voucher follows the person’ approach and will initially provide 3 days of hub use per person between now and the end of August. So for people who may wish to holiday at home this summer, this scheme is ideal if you need to do a couple of days working in facilities that are comfortable and underpinned by good quality broadband. I would strongly encourage potential new hub users and those thinking of a working staycation to set up a connectedhubs.ie profile. We will be applying vouchers to all registered users in the coming weeks, so get registered now.”

Connected Hubs

Minister Humphreys also today announced the results of the Connected Hubs Call 2022, a €5 million fund which will be used to build capacity and enhance existing remote working facilities.

The funding will benefit 81 projects and will support a wide range of works, including the expansion of existing hubs, installation of privacy booths, access control and security systems, the conversion of existing open plan space to modular offices, and provision of podcast studios, enhanced audio visual, networking and conferencing facilities.

Minister Humphreys continued:

“The Connected Hubs Call 2022 will see €5 million provided to support our existing hubs. This is on top of the almost €9 million I awarded to applicants in 2021. This scheme is designed to add remote working capacity at hubs and Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) across the country, to make more space for remote workers and to improve the quality of the facilities and their services. The quality of the successful applications was very high this year and I was delighted by the level of interest. It is clear that there is a huge amount of creativity and ambition among hubs and BCPs, something I see myself on a regular basis as I visit these wonderful facilities regularly.”

Town and Village Funding

To raise awareness of the remote working opportunities available across the country, the Minister has also announced funding for Local Authorities to market their hub offerings and promote their use.

The Measure which forms part of the 2022 Town and Village Renewal Scheme is open for applications, with Local Authorities eligible to apply for funding of up to €50,000 each.

Minister Humphreys said:

“Local Authorities are already working hard to attract remote workers to their areas. So I wanted to give them all a hand with these efforts. There are any number of people considering relocating from our cities and larger towns, whether to return home or to try something new. But they need to know what is available, where the hubs are and what the opportunities might be. This grant is available to all local authorities. If I’m a remote worker thinking about locating – why should I choose your county? There is nothing like a bit of intercounty rivalry to bring out the best in everybody. I want to see ‘Choose Clare, Choose Sligo, Choose Donegal’, style marketing campaigns across the country to show off what counties have to offer and to attract mobile talent and remote workers to their localities.”

Minister Humphreys added:

“Today represents the next chapter in our Remote Working journey. And it also demonstrates how we are putting ‘Our Rural Future’ into action. My message to remote workers today is clear: Whether you are in Donegal or Waterford, Louth or in Kerry, in the Midlands or along the border, we have a hub for you.”

Notes
Examples of successful Connected Hubs 2022 projects include:

€400,000 (via 2 successful applications) for Innovate Limerick to upgrade 7 existing hubs across Limerick. This project will expand remote working capacity and support the hubs in improving their sustainability goals. This investment will enable the continued development of a collaborative hub network, which will feed into the regional and national economic development strategy, the development of the National Remote Work Strategy and support the National Hubs network.
€149,000 for Offaly County Council for 5 Broadband Connection Points. This investment will support the BCPs in growing their remote working offering in rural areas of the county, providing local remote workers and students alike with modern facilities.
€145,000 for Clare County Council for 5 hubs. This investment will expand and upgrade the existing offering by providing increased capacity and improving the range of services available. The strategic location of the hubs throughout the county will provide a wide range of services for the wider community.
ConnectedHubs.ie is an initiative under Our Rural Future managed by the Department of Rural and Community Development. The project is being delivered by the Western Development Commission.

Our Rural Future
Our Rural Future is the whole-of-government policy for rural Ireland for the period 2021-2025. It represents a new milestone in the approach to rural development policy for Ireland and adopts a more strategic, ambitious and holistic approach to investing in and maximising opportunities for rural areas.

National Hub Network
One of the commitments provided in the 5-year policy is to establish a comprehensive and integrated national network of 400 Remote Working Hubs over the lifetime of the policy (to include a central booking platform for users). The National Connected Hubs network was launched in May 2021 and initially had some 60 hubs onboarded onto the connected hubs.ie platform. This has grown substantially and over 230 hubs are now live on the connectedhubs.ie platform.

€5 million Connected Hubs Call 2022
The primary objective of the Connected Hubs Call 2022, which is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development, is to support and complement the development of the National Hub Network, which is a key action of the Rural Development Policy – Our Rural Future and also the National Remote Working Strategy – Making Remote Work. The Connected Hubs Call 2022 aims to add additional capacity to the existing remote working infrastructure in Ireland by upgrading existing hubs and Broadband Connection Points (BCPs). This funding is in addition to €8.8 million provided for 117 remote working projects across the country in 2021.

Details of the Connected Hubs 2022 Call are available at Connected Hubs Fund

Investment in Remote Working Facilities

The Department of Rural and Community Development has to date invested some €100 million in the development of remote working facilities under programmes such as the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and the Town and Village Renewal Scheme. Many of these projects are focused on the regeneration of vacant town centre buildings. Further funding for the development of new remote working facilities will be announced throughout 2022.

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