Digital connectivity has become something of a watchword for urban planners, for reasons that need no rehearsing here.
The absence of a mega pipe to everyone’s door is such a source of competitive disadvantage that central governments and local authorities the world over are finding the money to fund the necessary infrastructure. And where they can’t, the private sector is stepping in with digital hubs of its own.
In Ireland they see it as an issue for rural competitiveness, too, in a way that will raise the pulse of my old friends at the Countryside Alliance, for sure.
But it wasn’t the local authority that has brought Skibbereen’s new 10,000 sq ft digital hub to the pretty market town in West Cork. A group of national and local entrepreneurs decided they couldn’t wait for the council to get their act together and have delivered it themselves.
Such private provision exists in cities like Liverpool, of course. Bruntwood’s huge investment in broadband at the Cotton Exchange and its subsequent launch of its co-working space for digital start-ups is evidence that here in the urban UK the private sector has a similar appetite for satisfying market demand. There’s more at Capital & Centric’s Tempest project, at DoES Liverpool and at Basecamp, among many others.
But 10,000 sq ft is no mean investment for a town of Skibbereen’s size. It’s got some impressive folk behind it and no little ambition and were I a betting man I’d put my money on it to make a decent fist of things. Definitely one to watch.