I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The national broadband plan is a key commitment in the programme for Government and is a core component of Project Ireland 2040. The national broadband plan will be a key enabler for the delivery of strategies such as Future Jobs Ireland as we prepare for the next stage of our economic development. Future Jobs Ireland is a new medium-term economic framework aimed at ensuring our economy is resilient enough to withstand shocks in the future and agile enough to take advantage of opportunities when they arise. The national broadband plan will support Future Jobs Ireland in helping our workers and businesses succeed in the digital, low-carbon economy of the future.
Digitalisation can drive substantial increases in productivity, innovation, social improvements and connections, and economic growth and jobs. To maximise the benefits from digitalisation we will need a strategic approach. Future Jobs Ireland 2019 sets out how we will begin to implement this strategic approach through the development of a national digital strategy, an industry 4.0 strategy and a national artificial intelligence strategy. The roll-out of the national broadband plan is critical for the use of advanced digital technologies core to all of these strategies.
Fundamentally, a driving goal of Government policy is to increase the living standards of our people. Increasing productivity levels is key to achieving this goal. Through Future Jobs Ireland, we hope to adopt measures to increase the productivity of indigenous SMEs over time. Therefore, I welcome the potential for significant productivity benefits for the almost 44,000 small and microbusinesses in the areas where high-speed broadband will operate under the national broadband plan and the potential for them to link to new markets and develop a global footprint. In line with Future Jobs Ireland aspirations, and complementing several Government strategies, delivery of the national broadband plan will help enhance the potential of the regions in terms of economic development by building regional economic drivers and reinforcing opportunities to diversify and strengthen the rural economy, and to leverage the potential of regional locations and communities. I look forward to an Ireland in which geography no longer disadvantages regional and rural communities in exploiting digital opportunities and digital commerce. The national broadband plan will be a key enabler as officials in my Department work with colleagues in the Department of the Taoiseach, in consultation with relevant stakeholders, on the development of new deliverables for inclusion in Future Jobs Ireland 2019 and beyond.