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Communications Minister Alex White promotes digital inclusion at British Irish Council

Douglas, Isle of Man 28 November 2014

Attending the British Irish Council (BIC) in Douglas, Isle of Man, today (Friday) Minister for Communications, Alex White T.D., outlined measures being taken by Ireland to ensure that citizens have internet skills and access to high quality broadband. He outlined the Government's National Digital Strategy (NDS), which includes a range of initiatives to encourage internet use and help people develop digital skills. He also outlined progress being made under the Government's National Broadband Plan, which aims to bring at least 30mbps connectivity to every home and business in the country.

The summit focussed on increasing digital inclusion as technology becomes more prevalent in everyday life and the provision of public services.

Speaking after the BIC summit, Minister White said: "I am determined that people get both the infrastructure and the knowledge they need to cross the digital divide and access the information, ideas and opportunities that come with internet connectivity. That's why I recently expanded the BenefIT programme, and that's why I'm determined that every home, school and business in Ireland will have high-speed broadband access, with the Government intervening to provide the infrastructure in areas where the market will not."

The latest phase of the National Broadband Plan was implemented earlier this week with the publication of an online map, which allows the public to identify their own home or business to see whether their high-speed broadband will be provided by a commercial operator or through State intervention.

Minister White also told the Council that the Republic of Ireland's BenefIT scheme was providing digital training to over 550 people a week. Over 28,800 people have been trained in six hundred locations across Ireland in the past 12 months. Over 109,000 – 20% of them unemployed – have been trained since the programme began.

The British Irish Council was established under the 1998 Multi-Party Agreement (the 'Good Friday Agreement') to promote links between the Northern Ireland Executive and the governments of the Republic of Ireland, the UK, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey. Today's Isle of Man Summit was the 23rd to be held since the inaugural meeting of the BIC in 1999.

ENDS

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