The Department of Rural & Community Development provides funding to each Local Authority to assist with the employment of a Broadband Officer. This funding has increased from €35,000 to €42,000 for 2019.
The role of the Broadband Officer is of vital importance as they provide a local point of contact for industry and the public regarding telecoms issues. The appointment of Broadband Officers has been highlighted by telecommunications operators and other stakeholders as an extremely important development.
Broadband Officers have successfully submitted applications to the Department of Rural and Community Development for funds in excess of €500,000 awarded under the Digital Innovation Programme. This programme was established to support Local Authority led projects that test digital solutions to local issues, or address digital deficiencies. Applications ranged from infrastructure projects, to life saving uses of digital technology, cultural promotion and tourism initiatives, to scientific research and smart street furniture.
Broadband Officers are also responsible for overseeing the rollout of the WiFi4EU initiative, potentially releasing €60,000 in European funds per Local Authority for free public WiFi access. The Department of Rural and Community Development will co-fund this initiative.
Broadband Officers are leading on the development of Digital Strategies for each Local Authority which will enable communities to make full use of digital technology in their daily lives.
They are also involved in a number of other initiatives in their functional areas, including the Smart Communities Initiative which was recently launched in Tubbercurry, and the Development of the Digiwest network of Rural Digital Working Hubs which recently received funding under the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and which will see Hubs established in Swinford Co. Mayo, Stranorlar, Co. Donegal, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon and Tubbercurry, Co. Sligo, in partnership with the Western Development Commission.
Broadband Officers at the Telecommunications Action Group meeting February 2019