Broadband crucial to future of remote, rural working

Since the beginning of the pandemic the number of Irish people who want to work exclusively from home has tripled.

Irish Government policy including the ‘Strategy on Remote Working’ and ‘Our Rural Future’ will stall at the first hurdle if the issues surrounding access to high-speed broadband in regional and rural Ireland are not addressed.

That’s the warning of Imagine CEO Sean Bolger whose company says it has been, and is, investing €300m in the expansion and roll-out of its network.

“Ultimately quality of life is a key consideration for employees”

Recent research from NUIG and the Western Development Commission that shows that 95pc of Irish workers how favour some form of home working working, while the number of employees wanting to work exclusively from home/remotely has almost tripled to 32pc in the year since the beginning of the pandemic.

It also indicates the belief among managers that remote working has had an overwhelmingly positive impact on productivity.

However, the research shows little appetite for working from a ‘hub’ as an alternative to home working or a hybrid model of home/office, with only 1pc favouring working solely from a hub, 7pc favouring a mix of home, hub and onsite and only 9pc a home/hub model.

The flexible future

Woman at desk working at home.

“Employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of remote working and are aware that the competition for the best talent will be fought, to a large part, on their company’s ability to offer more flexibility and hybrid and remote working arrangements”

According to Imagine the report once again highlights the urgent need for the roll out of secure, high-speed, high-capacity broadband now across the country.

‘It’s an essential service, not a nice to have,” Bolger said.

“Employers are increasingly seeing the benefits of remote working and are aware that the competition for the best talent will be fought, to a large part, on their company’s ability to offer more flexibility and hybrid and remote working arrangements. Ultimately quality of life is a key consideration for employees.

“While digital and remote working hubs are welcome additions, which will facilitate collaborative and supportive working, like the NBP Broadband Community Points they are no substitute to high speed high capacity broadband connectivity to businesses and homes”

Bolger said that the proverbial elephant in the room is that businesses, schools and families across the country without decent broadband are struggling to access basic on-line services.

“And we are unlikely to be able attract people to rural areas looking for a better quality of life, unless this issue quickly addressed,” Bolger said.

Last week Imagine announced that its coverage for its next generation broadband now exceeds 1m premises in regional and rural Ireland and that this will rise to 1.1m by the end of June with the addition of 60 new mast sites being added to its existing 268 across all 26 counties.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 20 May 2021

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