As Ireland’s first Smart Community we were delighted to host the Grow remote conference in Tubbercurry on Tuesday 16th April 2019.

A little bit about Smart Community

At the end of 2018 the Department of Communications, Climate action and Environment announced that Tubbercurry had been chosen as Ireland’s first Smart Community. This followed months of brainstorming and ideation sessions by the government with public and private sector entities exploring what it should and could look like. Ultimately they defined a Smart Community as one that will enable local citizens to discover and experience what is possible with digital technology and content. We absolutely know that we aren’t there yet…. but we have the ambition, passion and commitment to get there. We have been given a blank canvas, we have government support and our destiny is in our own hands.

South Sligo Smart Community programme will focus on four key pillars: 

  • physical & mental wellbeing
  • economic wellbeing
  • history and heritage
  • basic digital skills

We all know that the world is changing, Ireland is changing, South Sligo and rural Ireland is changing. Almost everything we touch, feel see and do is in some way impacted by digital.

There are many advantages to being digitally active…

  1. Digital helps us to stay connected with family and friends, through social media, email, Skype and Facetime. Using the internet builds confidence and wellbeing and can reduce the feeling of isolation.
  2. Being online can save you money giving access to a wider market and makes it easier to compare prices. You can find the best online deals and to make more informed purchasing decisions.
  3. Online saves time travelling and queuing to avail of goods and services. For example online banking, NCT booking, paying car tax, booking flights.  You can now do this from the convenience of your own home at a time that suits you.
  4. It’s possible to entertain yourself via digital channels, to pursue your hobbies and interests and explore other cultures. You can also stay up to date with current affairs and catch up on TV using playback facilities.
  5. And digital also supports education allowing you to expand your knowledge and skills, undertake online courses and facilitate your learning at your own pace.

But it’s not all good news…

Rural communities like Tubbercurry and South Sligo are facing challenges in the face of urbanisation, online shopping and rural depopulation. Town centres are dying and losing their core and our children are leaving to attend university and settling in urban locations. We want to turn this wheel, we want to keep Tubbercurry alive and we want to create a future for our children that give them job opportunities in this county.

There are very positive soundbites coming from Sligo in recent months.

  • Sligo Co Council is working on a Smart City initiative
  • Sligo is being recognised as a great place to live and work, encouraging a healthy work life balance within close proximity of the Wild Atlantic Way and the beautiful lakes and mountains in South Sligo.
  • Investment in Coolaney National Mountain Bike Centre
  • Sligo IT has ambitions to become a technical university and increased course choice at North Connaugh College (ebusiness)
  • Sligo is fast becoming a hub for tech and with the support of Enterprise Ireland and John Nugent and team in the IDA there were over 1200 tech job announcements for sligo in 2018 giving a real boost to the county.

So how can Tubbercurry capitalise on this?

We are clear on Sligo Co Council’s strategy and direction and we are aligning our community plans and activities to the overall ambition for Sligo. We need to get involved in schools early, nurturing talent, introducing code to our children at an early age through programmes like coder dojo and encouraging our kids in STEM subjects. We need to work closely with our local colleges and we need to encourage close collaboration between local businesses and the educational bodies.  We believe also that developing a community around remote working is also key to building a brilliant rural community. Tubbercurry, like rural towns across Ireland, has great potential for remote working opportunities.  The Grow Remote conference and speakers have shown us jobs don’t have to be physically in our town or county. They can be anywhere. Workers are craving a better work life balance. Employers want to attract the best talent and realise now that remote working is an acceptable norm. Tubbercurry has a lot to offer remote workers – excellent schools, local amenities, low cost of living, fantastic community spirit and beautiful surroundings. We have a great town and community spirit. We have a fighting spirit that will turn our digital challenge into an opportunity. The Smart Community initiative gives us a chance to explore and better understand digital and how it can be used to benefit us in our daily lives and also to understand how digital and smart technology can be used to enhance our community. We will need every aspect of our community to take advantage of smart tech if we are to thrive together. We have the backing of local businesses and with our dedicated committee and strong community support we can take our vision for Tubbercurry so far. But if we are to take this to the next level then government support and intervention must be delivered.

Tubbercurry is a small rural community in South Sligo passionate about creating a community that is vibrant, sustainable and connected. We understand that the fabric of rural towns is changing. Retail businesses are struggling as consumer behaviour changes. There is no point fighting the digital revolution. The time has come to embrace digital and all the opportunities and benefits that it brings. Our town is doing exactly that. We are embracing digital and embarking on an exciting journey as Ireland’s first Smart community.

The Grow Remote conference was an amazing success. We would like to take the opportunity to acknowledge and thank all those who helped to make the Grow Remote conference a reality. A special thanks to the Grow Remote co-founder Tracy Keogh and the team for your energy, vision and passion. We are so delighted to partner with you and proud of what we have achieved together. Thank you to Sligo County Council, the Western Development commission, Fintan Kennedy FBD insurance, Black-knight, ICBC and Bank of Ireland. We value your support and thank you for your commitment to Grow Remote. To the speakers at our event and MC Noel Toolan. You have inspired each and every person that attended the event. Thank you for sharing your stories and for giving your time to be here. We are surrounded by can do attitudes and positive mindset. Nothing is impossible if you have the right attitude. The art of the possible… is possible.

The Smart Community Team:

Joann Hosey, Louise Kilbane, Sean McDonagh, Marie Brouder and Geraldine Brennan