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National Digital Strategy Progress Event

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Dublin Castle, 26 June 2014

· Funding for training the Digitally Excluded boosted by €400,000

· Progress in Digital Strategy marked simultaneously at Dublin Castle and on Arranmore Island.

· Event marks milestone of 100,000th participant receiving digital training under BenefIT scheme.

The Minister for Communications, Pat Rabbitte, T.D., today joined Ireland’s Digital Champion David Puttnam on a video link between Arranmore Island and Dublin Castle where communities and businesses are considering how to “do more with digital”.

The event in Dublin Castle is taking stock of progress in The National Digital Strategy (NDS) which was launched less than a year ago. In Donegal, Minister Rabbitte is meeting with island residents who are receiving basic internet training through the Government’s BenefIT scheme, and with businesses that are making the transition to online trading.

The Dublin Castle event was also attended by veteran GAA broadcaster Mícheál O’Muircheartaigh, who has agreed to work with the Minister and David Puttnam to champion the use of digital across Irish society. During a lively discussion at Dublin Castle, Mícheál commented that "Digital development and widespread broadband availability are as important to the future of Ireland as the coming of electricity was in the 1920s".

Minister Rabbitte announced that an additional €400,000 was being made available to boost training for the digitally excluded. Meanwhile in Dublin David Puttnam congratulated the 100,000th beneficiary of the scheme.

“The slogan is doing more with digital. The NDS is about doing. Today is about some of what has been done in the 3 strands of the strategy – enterprise, education & citizens” Minister Rabbitte said.

Enterprise:

· The National Digital Strategy and Action Plan for Jobs commit to getting 2,000 businesses trading online by the end of next year. Evidence shows that Irish consumers spend over €4bn online annually, yet almost 70% of this spend goes overseas. Meanwhile, only 23% of small Irish companies are trading online.

· To address this challenge €5m has been allocated from the Government’s stimulus package to develop a trading-online voucher scheme.

· Early evaluation of the pilot phase of the programme shows the intervention is empowering small businesses and helping them create jobs.

· The digital sector in Ireland is working with Government on this programme and provided their expertise for a successful mentoring event for Local Enterprise Office partners earlier this month.

· The Trading-online voucher scheme will be launched nationally over the coming weeks.

Minister Rabbitte said “We are seeing evidence across Ireland of the value that online trading brings to traditional businesses. From craft makers to restaurants, clothing, food and books – every business has an opportunity to grow their business and create more jobs by developing an online presence”. The Minister also noted that Ireland was one of the first EU Member States to address this challenge through a dedicated voucher scheme. A similar scheme is being piloted in Spain by the European Commission.

Education:

· By September, every second level school in Ireland will have access to 100Mbps high speed broadband, following a three year partnership programme spearheaded by the Minister for Communications and the Minister for Education and Skills.

· The two Departments have followed this investment with the launch of a “Switch-On” outreach programme to schools. The “Switch On” workshops are designed to help teachers to optimise their use of digital tools in the classroom. The teachers have responded very positively.

· In parallel with these initiatives the Department of Education and Skills is developing the very important new National Digital Strategy for Schools.

Citizens

· The National Digital Strategy aims to convert 280,000 citizens from “non-liners” to “onliners” over a two year period.

· The Department’s “BenefIT” scheme provides training across Ireland to help people develop basic internet skills including email, video calls, online banking etc.

· Training is provided in 600 locations nationwide;

· 100,000 people have received training to date under this programme;

· A further €400,000 is being allocated to the scheme today, in order to ramp up training efforts.

Speaking by video link from one the BenefIT Programme training venues the Minister said "Here in Arranmore Island I can see the importance of digital, particularly for rural communities where connectivity can add tangible value to people’s lives. I have now committed a further €400,000 to this valuable training initiative”.

As part of today’s event, the 100,000th trainee under the BenefIT programme will receive a free laptop from Lenovo. The Minister noted that Lenovo is keen to partner with the Department in helping motivate citizens to get more active online. Welcoming this initiative, the Minister said “Partnership with industry is the key to delivering a successful strategy”

Fiona O'Brien, Ireland country manager, Lenovo, said: "Lenovo is proud to be working with the Irish Government to support this essential initiative."

Today’s event in Dublin Castle will explore how the Department can scale up its programme of engagement across all strands of the National Digital Strategy, working closely with the digital sector and community groups in the regions.

Speaking from Dublin Castle, Ireland's Digital Champion David Puttnam said “I took on this role because of my sincere belief that the digital world offered a once in a generation opportunity to enhance our lives, to transform education and with it the future prospects of every man, woman and child in this country. Launching the National Digital Strategy last year was an important step. We now see real and meaningful progress in all three strands – and a momentum to do so much more. Today we saw a little of what’s been achieved – we will have more to show and announce over the coming months.”

Minister Rabbitte added “David and I agree on the importance of keeping up the momentum. For the next 12 months we can look forward to more small businesses trading online, more business growth and more job creation. We will be scaling up our efforts and will continue to work to expand our network of stakeholders so that schools, businesses and communities all over Ireland can do more with and benefit more from digital.”
ENDS

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