ENNIS will never be the same again after being declared Telecom Eireann information age town at a glittering function in Dublin’s Point Theatre last night.
A £15m investment will see virtually every home and business in the buoyant Co. Clare town (population 15,400) getting a personal computer with e-mail and internet access - for free.
Two info-tech multinationals had told Ennis that if they won they’d locate there and provide a total of 150 jobs.
Phoenix, Arizona, a sister town, are willing to collaborate with Ennis in setting up the first tele-community training centre in Europe.
Ennis can expect a vibrant tourism - as people from all over the country visit to see the "future: at work.
The Clare county town could find itself entering an info-tech jobs bonanza after its Telecom win.
Nobody in the town should feel left out of the new age of communications, as full back-up services will be provided, including learning programmes.
Townspeople will be able to contact each other through an intra-net, providing an awesome prospect of near-total interchange of information across the community.
Said T J Waters, who accepted the top prize: "For Ennis and Co Clare, its our third All-Ireland victory in 10 days. How much more can we take?"
He added: "The key to tonight’s victory has been partnership and co-operation between the public and private sectors and with the wider community." For those who don’t get free computers, the local credit union will provide soft loans.
The PCs will be offered at a fraction of the normal commercial cost to encourage full local community participation.
Ennis edged out Killarney, Kilkenny and Castlebar who were shortlisted with Ennis from 46 towns who vied to become the country’s first information age town.
However, Telecom is to invest £1m in information technology in Killarney, Kilkenny and Castlebar. It will also provide free voicemail facilities "to everyone" in these towns, and will work in partnership with them in developing a few of the projects they proposed.
Telecom chief executive Alfie Kane says they intend to blanket Ennis with all the communication tools of the information age to see what happens when an entire community becomes "wired".
Mr Kane said Ireland’s information age town will be a showpiece where people will be able "to see the future happening right now."
The idea is to show what can be done when the tools are in place - and to discover what else can be done when people come to terms with the enabling technology, he said.
Over the next two years Telecom will support the development of information age community access centres in each of the 46 towns who took part in the project. These centres will be equipped with multimedia PCs where people can access the internet.
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