Ennis Information Age Countdown

THE community of Ennis is ready, capable and willing to take on the challenge of creating and living in an information society. That's the message awaiting the panel of assessors when they arrive in Ennis on Tuesday next for the final stage of Telecom Eireann' s 15 Million information Age Town Competition. At a special presentation, the Ennis Task Force, Responsible for co-ordinating the campaign, will tell the judges of the very real advantages and resources that Ennis brings to the table. Chamber President T.J. Waters and Assistant Tom Dowling will present a vision for the Information Age and will set out in tangible ways how the vision will be realised.

As the final touches are put to the Ennis presentation. the chamber President said. "Teachers, butchers. carers in home. industrialists, retailers, those with disabilities, the public sector and young web enthusiasts are united and unanimous in their support for the Information Age".
The Assistant Co. Manager said he believed that "few other initiatives have brought the community together, and galvanised it, to the degree that the opportunity of living in the Information Age has".
The Task Force believes that Ennis is ideally located as the Information Age town between Limerick and Galway and the closeness of Shannon Airport is strategically important. The group sees very real advantages in being physically close to the leading educational resources at the University of Limerick, University College, Galway and the Regional Technical Colleges in Galway and Limerick. They also point out that Ennis is on the frame relay telecommunications system around Ireland and is on the emerging Limerick/Galway technology axis.
The judges will also be told that Ennis already has a much higher than expected current level of information in technology awareness. Research undertaken specifically for the submission has shown that there are computers in over the half the homes with students at primary or secondary level. One in five of all households with computers have access to the internet. This research has also revealed a high level of technology within Ennis business and the public sector, a high level of involvement in existing European Union initiatives and rapid take up in the innovative use of technology. Winning the Telecom competition is expected to bring over 300 jobs to the town. Ennis proposes that the information society will focus on five flagship 'pillars'.

1. Concentration of Expertise In Three Disciplines
Ennis is already involved in lifelong learning, health care and teleworking. It is proposed to develop a core of expertise in these areas which is expected to create 100 new jobs. Lifelong learning includes availability of courses in local centres, one to one tutorials, demonstrations in libraries, access to research to research material. The introduction of technology as a training delivery mechanism is only at its initial stages but the acceleration is phenomenal. Existing pioneering work is being carried out by the Adult Education Centre and the Clare Education Centre, Ennis proposes to consolidate and expand upon these activities and to initially concentrate on four key areas.

In an e mail fro the Larry C. Kennedy Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona class teacher Connie Kassa told the Ennis Task Force that pupils at the school had been writing to Sean McDermott's class in Ennis National School for four years.
"We are looking forward ", she said, to the time when we can communicate via internet with our friends in Ennis". The Larry C. Kennedy school is not only on the internet but has a computer in every classroom.
Healthcare has been singled out by the European Union as a further area in which technology has a vital role to play. In the context of the Information Age Town it is taken to include community care, care of the elderly, special interest groups with shared health problems. Bridget Barron , a public Health Nurse in Ennis, has over the last number of years built up a unique expertise in the use of technology in health care and public health. Having assessed and reviewed developments in other countries . She is in an excellent position to advise on that implementation of health care initiatives. It is proposed that Ennis will focus on three specific aspects of health care:

The Dulick Enterprise Centre in Ennis has a national reputation for training people with disabilities. The centre is networked and has e mail and internet connections. Trainees can now use the Internet to source information and communicate with other people in Ireland and worldwide. The centre is in no doubt that the catalyst for it's placement success has been access to computers and the latest technology.

The effect of migration from rural areas has been particularly draining in Clare over the years. Information and communications technologies and opportunities offered by teleworking could reverse this trend. Teleworking is usually taken to mean working from home by computer. A survey of 50 companies in the Shannon region indicates that 67% of the interviewees used personal computers at home for their work. The Ennis submission proposed that the town becomes a major centre to adopt the required techniques and technology while new companies specifically suited to teleworking would be enticed into the region.

2. Cluster of High Technology Industry
Ennis also proposed the establishment of a cluster of telecommunications intensive industries with an employment target of over 150 people. The three growth areas which will be initially targeted are:

Multimedia is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Irish economy and set to experience exceptional rates of growth over the next number of years. European spending of multi-media software increased tenfold between 1991 and 1996. It's success is being driven by the increased penetration of the internet worldwide. It is estimated that the worldwide web is doubling in size every three months.
Telephone centres include telemarketing, telesales and telephone support systems. Ireland has already experienced phenomenal growth in these sectors with Compaq. Dec and Gateway 2000 located in the east of the country. The nature of the service is ideally suited to Ennis with a high quality of life and relatively low costs. The out flow of technology and multilingual skills from the colleges in Galway and Limerick and the development of a robust infrastructure places Ennis in an ideal position to source an industry.
In this regard Ennis has already been approached by an American company wishing to set up operation in Ennis.

3. Centre for Emerging Technologies and Services.
As we enter the Information Age, new technologies and services are being developed at a phenomenal rate. It is virtually impossible for new companies to predict which new technologies will float and which will sink. The establishment of Ennis as a European centre for emerging technologies and services will ensure that both national and international firms will have an opportunity to introduce and develop their products in a suitable test base or pilot centre. Technologies and services for which Ennis would be a suitable pilot centre include video conferencing, digital versatile disc (DVD), Web TV, video on demand, digi-cash and smart-card electronic cash.

4. National Centre for Information Awareness.
The report from the Government's Information Age Society steering committee signifies the start of a concerted effort to raise awareness on the Information Society and it's implications. In its capacity as the Information Age Town, Ennis will seek to become the logical national point of information on the information society. The town will actively seek for the awareness raising dimensions of the work of the Information Society Commission to be co-ordinated fro Ennis.

5. Ennisnet - Internet Applications for Community Use
The use of the Internet for community use is critical to the success of Ennis as an Information town. The other initiatives, as outlined, will greatly enhance the quality of life of a wide range of special interest groups. However, the Ennis task force believes that the use of the Internet as a community tool is the single tangible flagship unifying the community. Ennis is proposing to establish a state of the art Internet Provider Centre on site with an experienced and resourced team developing and administering the Ennis system, training and trouble shooting. This would be complimented by the creation of a sophisticated information rich and service intensive Ennis system to which the general public would have free access.