Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Questions (88)

Martin Heydon


88. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment the anticipated expansion of the digital economy in forthcoming years; the role the national broadband plan will play in allowing Ireland to take full advantage of the opportunities of the digital economy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21552/19]

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Written answers (Question to Communications)

The purpose of the National Broadband Plan is to ensure that over 1.1 million of our citizens in rural Ireland have the same opportunity to participate in the digital society as citizens living in urban areas. The availability of ubiquitous high speed broadband will bring significant benefits in areas of e-Health, e-Education, smart farming, regional development and tourism. The National Broadband Plan intervention is the subject of a procurement process to engage a company to build, operate and maintain the NBP State intervention network. Following rigorous evaluation by my Department, I recently brought a recommendation to Government to confer Preferred Bidder status on Granahan McCourt, the remaining bidder in the NBP procurement process and Government agreed to this at its meeting on 7 May.

The Government decision means that it is intended to award the State Intervention contract to National Broadband Ireland, subject to the contract close, including the finalisation of financial and legal documents. Deployment of the NBP State Intervention network will commence shortly after that.

As part of that decision, the Government was mindful of the importance of the digital economy to our overall economic wellbeing and development.

Overall, Ireland is ranked 6th out of 28 Member States in the Digital Economy and Social Index (DESI) 2018, up from 9th in 2017. Ireland is in the “high performer group of EU states for digital performance”. Ensuring access to high speed broadband services to every premises in Ireland will further strengthen Ireland’s position as a leading European digital economy.

The availability of high quality, high speed broadband to the 1.1 million people and 44,000 businesses as part of the National Broadband Plan State intervention will give rise to new employment opportunities both directly and indirectly while also helping existing businesses across the Intervention Area to increase productivity, access new customers and markets and support workers. A key investment to support sustainable regional and rural development as part of Project Ireland 2040 will support the further expansion of the Irish digital economy and improve Ireland's competitiveness over the next 25 years.

In addition, it is anticipated that approximately 1,800 jobs will be created as part of the build, operation and maintenance of the network. Over 200 of those jobs will be within National Broadband Ireland and a further 1,500 contractors will be engaged by NBI's subcontractors.