Ennis moves early into 21st century technology

By Sean Mac Cárthaigh

The Irish Times, Monday, September 29th, 1997

A heady cocktail of massive local commitment, a can-do attitude and land available for digital age factories made Ennis, Co. Clare, The Information Age town, the judges said last night. For the town’s representatives at the Point Theatre in Dublin there was also the element of destiny-the president of Ennis Chamber of Commerce, Mr. T.J. Waters, brought along a prepared victory speech.

"For Ennis and Co. Clare, this is our third all-Ireland victory in 10 days. How much more can we take !" he told the gala dinner.

"We know that over the next few years we will have at our disposal the most sophisticated communications technologies of our time. It is our belief that these developements will bring benefits, not just economic terms, but also education, health and community care," Mr. Waters added.

Telecom Eireann, which organised the competition and will fund the project, stressed that Ireland now had a chance to seize for itself a prosperous future. In a short time, said chief executive, Mr. Alfie Kane, 25 per cent of total employment would be in information-based jobs.

"We have to be ready for the future now. And to achieve this state of readiness, we believe that a live environment we provide a unique showcase," he added. "Ireland’s Information Age Town will act as a test-bed for the range of new technologies and businesses that will transform all our lives in the 21st century."

The company said it would quickly get the project up and running. Within weeks, all homes in Ennis will have digital voicemail and other services. The town will have its own intranet - a localised version of the internet - to which the vast majority of homes and businesses will be hooked up.

High-speed ISDN lines and multi-media computers will be available at greatly reduced prices, allowing rapid access to the World Wide Web. Schools and colleges, as well as public services, will be wired with the latest technology, and smart cash-cards will be introduced, creating a commercial life without bank notes or coins.

The company was quick to emphasise that households would not get a free computer, but said that with huge subsidies it believed it could coax 80 per cent on-line.

Mr. Jerry O’Sullivan, head of Telecom’s corporate communications, said: "For socially disadvantaged families, we will be accommodating them totally."

The three losing finalists did not leave empty handed. Telecom Éireann said it would invest £1 million in each of these communities.

Telecom Éireann will put £15 million worth of equipment and infrastructure into Ennis. Most homes will get a computer, linked to the Internet. Every business will have a computer and access to the Internet.

Every student, from the age of five, will have regular, intensive training with computers and communications tools.

Public services will all be fully equipped to best used technology. Every home will have a special telephone with voice-mail and a caller identification read-out.

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