Hints of the jobs dividend that could yield to Ennis and its surroundings were revealed to the “Champion” this week as Telecom Eireann announced details of the appointment of a project manager who will be responsible for the implementation of the project at a local level. From next week, John Culligan will be based at a temporary Ennis Information Age Office, to be located in the Ennis Business Centre on Francis Street. A permanent purpose built office will be based adjacent to the Post Office on Bank Place, the construction of which is getting underway in the near future.
Meanwhile, Telecom have this week advertised for another project manager who will have to work closely with both the local Task Force which did so much to secure the Information Age Town status for Ennis and Telecom Eireann officials.
This duo together with Telecom’s Information Age Projects Manager, Des McLaughlin who is based in Dublin will then guide the fortunes of Ireland’s first information age town. They will oversee the injection of the £15m into the Ennis economy over the next five years.
A key strategy which is set to evolve in the short-term is a “business plan” which will spell out in detail how this money is going to be spent. Telecom Eireann head of corporate affairs, Gerry O’Sullivan has revealed that the finishing touches are now being put to this plan.
“One of the objectives of this project is also to help the town, to help business in the town and to help job creation in the town. We are at the moment putting together a longer business plan for this project. In early January we will be signing a business plan that will take us through the next three to five years”.
This business plan is set to include provision for a Call Centre which has the potential to translate into hundreds of jobs through new and existing businesses. “We do want to target a call centre into Ennis. It is a very stated objective of the group and we would be confident of doing this. Ireland is now the call centre capital of Europe because a third of all call centres are located in Ireland,” said Gerry O’Sullivan.
“Really what we need to do is to get the technology deployed. It’s a matter of getting businesses using the technology and getting people IT literate. They you have a selling proposition. Ennis can then go and sell itself.
“It has been proven in America that if you start using technology, competitiveness is significantly enhanced and the prospect for jobs flows from that. I wouldn’t like to make commitments that we couldn’t stand over but we are talking about hundreds of jobs”, he added. A call centre is where back office support is provided to multi nationals and domestic businesses where they can service the needs of their customers in after sales. A typical example would be for computer companies capable of providing back-up support. They would sell PCs through catalogues and then provide a free phone number into a call centre where any technical support can be given.
Technical support is also to be directed into Ennis’ eleven schools as they are to be fitted with up to 720 computers. This process will be started during the Christmas holidays. According to Gerry O’Sullivan this will pave the way for these schools to become the most computer literate in the county.
“It will mean that the schools in Ennis will have probably the highest density of PCs in the country. Taking the 4,000 schools around the country the average could be as low as five PCs per school. Here we are talking about having roughly sixty to seventy PCs per school”. Meanwhile, every household in the Urban area of Ennis is to be given a computer worth in the region of £1,300. Mr. O’Sullivan revealed that after protracted discussions and negotiations it was agreed that those interested in taking up this offer will be levied by Telecom Eireann. “We were never going to be dashing out and giving everyone PC’s. We want to do it in a controlled fashion. In the second half of January we will have information evenings in Ennis when we will be talking in groups of people and familiarising them with PCs and will then start handing out PCs.
“We are all agreed that there should be a levy and that the levy shouldn’t be prohibitive. We are talking about in the region of £150 to £200. The giving of computers will be definitively defined to the urban area. The 4000 computers will be given out throughout 1998”, he concluded.
To kick start this computer offer Telecom are set to announce on Friday the name of the company which has won the franchise to supply these computers. Also in the immediate term, December 15th has been announced as the date when every house in Ennis will be switched on to voice mail while 450 houses have decided to avail of free telephone connection. This will mean that 93 per cent of houses in Ennis will have telephones.
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