9th July 2019
Seán Canney TD, Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, today welcomed the publication of the 2019 Quarter 2 Progress Report of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce. Since its establishment in 2016 under a Programme for a Partnership Government commitment, 'the Taskforce' has addressed over 60 targeted actions, designed to alleviate connectivity barriers prior to the rollout of the National Broadband Plan and tackle nationwide coverage blackspots.
Guided by a shared commitment to improve services for consumers and business, especially in rural areas, the Taskforce membership comprises Government Departments, State Bodies, ComReg, Local Government and Industry. Under the joint stewardship of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment and the Department of Rural and Community Development, the Taskforce has delivered many tangible results via its annual Work Programmes, including:
- The introduction by ComReg of a licencing exemption scheme to allow the use of mobile phone repeaters. This is particularly useful for those living in rural areas, boosting outdoor mobile signals to improve the quality of phone coverage indoors.
- Work which has begun to make appropriate access to State owned assets possible for telecoms operators to site their equipment. This could have a significant impact on mobile coverage, particularly in rural areas.
- The installation by Transport Infrastructure Ireland of 1,000km of cable ducting across the State's national roads network. This will house a significant part of the fibre-optic 'spine' that will bring broadband services to homes and businesses across the country.
The strides made by the Taskforce and other local and national initiatives in bridging the digital divide and improving access to vital telecoms services has been reflected in the European Commission's annual Digital Economy and Society Index and Report (DESI) 2019. This year's report, published on 11 June, shows that Ireland has improved its overall ranking to 7th place in the EU, up from 8th place in 2018.
Addressing Ireland's encouraging progress, Minister Canney said: "I welcome the publication of the Q2 Taskforce Report, which exhibits the continued momentum of the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, as we pursue targeted actions which accelerate the rollout of vital telecommunications infrastructure. The Q2 Progress Report represents the halfway point in the delivery of the 2019 Work Programme, and underlines the progress made in the alleviation of coverage blackspots, as we move towards a more inclusive digital society. Furthermore, this is the first Taskforce Progress Report since the publication of this year's DESI Report, which once again shows that not only is Ireland one of Europe's digital leaders, but that we are continually improving our scores year on year. We have improved our performance in all DESI index categories, which is testament to the success of this Government's digital and telecoms policies, such as the Taskforce.
In the Integration of Digital Technology index category, Ireland has been ranked first in the EU for the third year running, with our SMEs' use of e-commerce getting particular praise. The Trading Online Voucher Scheme, an innovative programme managed by my own Department that assists small and micro-enterprises to develop their online trading capability, was highlighted in the report. This shows that digital technology doesn't just benefit big companies, but can make a real difference to businesses of all size.
I am also happy to see such improvements in the Connectivity index category, which reflects the Government's continued commitment in this sector. Ireland is now outperforming the rest of the EU in most connectivity indicators. The report further notes the ambition of the National Broadband Plan and the vital importance of full connectivity for many other digital services. Successful roll-out of the National Broadband Plan will ensure that in years to come everyone will be able to benefit from the digital society, irrespective of where they work, live or study. In the meantime, the Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce, established in July 2016, and of which I am the Chair, has been a driving force for improving access to telecommunication services throughout Ireland. Designed to lay the groundwork for full connectivity for our citizens, the Taskforce has addressed over 60 targeted actions and worked to alleviate connectivity barriers, ensuring everyone can avail of the social and economic fruits of the digital revolution."
Europe's Digital Economy and Society Index and Report 2019 Ireland Country Page: https://ec.europa.eu/digital-single-market/en/scoreboard/ireland
Note to Editor:
The Digital Economic and Society Index (DESI)
The Digital Economic and Society Index (DESI) is a composite index which provides a summary of relevant indicators in relation to Europe's digital performance and tracks the evolution of EU member states in digital competitiveness. The DESI report tracks the progress made by Member States in terms of their digitisation. It is structured around five chapters: Connectivity; Human Capital; Use of Internet Services; Integration of Digital technology; and Digital Public Services.
The DESI was re-calculated this year for previous years for all countries in order to reflect changes in the choice of indicators and corrections to the underlying indicator data.
Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark scored the highest ratings in DESI 2019 and are among the global leaders in digitalisation. These countries are followed by the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Ireland, Estonia, and Belgium.
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce
The Mobile Phone and Broadband Taskforce is made up of senior officials from a number of Government Departments, Statutory Agencies and Local Government and engages with representatives of the telecommunications industry.
Chaired by Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, the Taskforce was established to identify and address barriers to improved mobile phone and broadband services in areas with poor connectivity ahead of the roll out of the National Broadband Plan.
The organisations represented in the Taskforce are:
Department of Rural and Community Development
Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government
Local Government Management Agency
Transport Infrastructure Ireland
County and City Management Association
Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg)
Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland
Office of Public Works
The work of the Taskforce is supported by ongoing engagement with Ibec on behalf of the Telecommunications Industry.
Quarterly and Annual Reports of the Taskforce can be found here