I propose to take Questions Nos. 404 and 405 together.
Our Rural Future clearly sets out the transformative effects that remote working can have in communities across Ireland. In support of this, in May 2021 I launched the National Hub Network - connectedhubs.ie. The National Hub Network currently comprises 232 remote and co-working facilities across the State. These facilities have been onboarded to connectedhubs.ie, the shared online booking and payments platform for member hubs and their users. The network includes a diverse range of hubs, services and facilities, thus facilitating companies of different sizes. It is expected that, in time, the National Hub Network and the connectedhubs.ie platform will include more than 400 facilities.
To date my focus has been on establishing the network and on achieving the initial critical mass. Following strong progress on the establishment phase of the project, my focus has now shifted to the next stage of development.
To this end, my officials have been consulting with hub managers across the country, and with other stakeholders, to better inform the future strategic direction of the National Hub Network and of the connectedhubs.ie platform. In February I announced the commencement of a major promotional campaign to raise awareness of the Connected Hubs network to relevant stakeholders, including SMEs/business owners and new hub users.
I have been clear throughout my tenure as Minister for Rural and Community Development that balanced regional development, sustainable and thriving communities, and indeed the wider national economy will all benefit from workers and employers embracing the remote working revolution.
At this stage of the development of the hub sector, particularly in rural areas, there is still a strong focus on the individual remote worker. Pricing plans are constructed with affordability for the worker in mind and bookings are, in general, made by the individual.
However, and as the Deputy will be aware, there are significant opportunities for employers of all sizes to leverage the National Hub Network directly. More workers than ever are expressing a preference for remote work and more employers, noting the strong professional performance of so many remote workers, see their own interests reflected in the those of their employees.
The connectedhubs.ie team have for some time been developing a corporate service to engage with and support corporate clients interested in using our nationwide network to accommodate their employees, but also to gain access to the vast pool of talent that Ireland has to offer, whether those talented people live in our cities, towns, villages or rural parishes. I believe that this work represents another great step forward for the National hub Network.
I am committed to ensuring that the National Hub Network will continue to make a central contribution to the achievement of the Government's vision for rural Ireland, as set out in Our Rural Future .