Enabling more people to work remotely could generate hundreds of millions for regional Ireland, a new report has found.
The report, commissioned by Vodafone, assessed the economic impact of so-called ‘smart hubs’ which have been developed in a number of rural towns.
The hubs provide businesses with access to high-quality broadband, deskspace, and a range of other services.
This is designed to keep jobs in rural areas and cut down on commutes.
Economist Jim Power, the author of the report, said that establishing one hub in every county in the Republic of Ireland could generate €312m of a total economic benefit.
He said: “Once you get the technology in place, immediately you start to get high-quality businesses coming into those hubs.
“The hubs are mainly in rural towns around the country so for the people who work in those hubs, it means the commute is gone [and] the cost of living is generally significantly lower than in urban areas. So the whole quality of life impact improves dramatically”.
Backers of the hubs say they promote a sense of community, giving people a chance to collaborate with other companies working from the hub.
In addition, they may prove suitable for people who don’t wish to work remotely from home.
Adrienne Harrington, chief executive of the Ludgate hub in Skibbereen, told Newstalk: “I think a lot of people find working from home, and I’m the same myself, to be actually quite isolating.
"You don’t see anybody else during the day and it can be difficult to switch off”.
Ms Harrington said the hub is working on an expansion programme to be able to take more people in.
She said there was growing demand from businesses who want to expand in the cities but find this too difficult or expensive.
Ludgate is part of the ‘Gigabit Hub’ initiative, a partnership between Vodafone and broadband business Siro, designed to provide free connectivity services to hubs in 15 towns.
Regina Moran, enterprise director at Vodafone, said: “It’s very important that economic development happens not just in the big urban centres.
"I think that we have some beautiful towns in Ireland, some beautiful villages, and we don’t want them to be destroyed and just be holiday destinations."