Ennis is fast becoming a place where every home has not just a telephone, but one with voice mail, caller identification and other services; every business, large and small, has an ISDN connection and high speed access to the Internet; every student from the age of five has regular intensive access to a computer; public services - from libraries to healthcare - are equipped to exploit the potential of the Information Age; the majority of households have personal computers linked to the Internet.
The technological innovations will offer incredible opportunities for economic growth, improving health care and public sector services, expanding community development and educational opportunities and transforming the lives of individuals in positive ways.
Forty six towns competed in the Telecom Eireann competition to be chosen as Information Age Town and four were shortlisted. The four had to satisfy the judging panel under a number of criteria, which included:
Ennis came out on top.
Telecom Eireann are investing £1 million each in Killarney, Castlebar and Kilkenny, the other three finalists, so they can develop some of their plans and ‘The Information Age Town Alliance’ will be established, involving all 46 towns which participated in the Information Age Competition. Community Access Centres will be set up, equipped with multi-media PC’s, where people will be able to access the Internet and avail of public services on-line.
There are enormous benefits to be gained from becoming the Information Age Town, and here are some of them.
For those living alone, it will mean feeling safer, as home security systems will be linked directly with the Gardai. It also means meals on wheels can be ordered and menus chosen on-line.
‘Telemedicine’ may become the norm, with 24 hour medical and nursing services, using two-way video, available for those living alone or with a disability.
Public services will become more easily accessible for all, as information will be readily available and response times will be reduced.
Families will be able to keep in touch with relations in other parts of the country and all over the world via the Internet.
Ennis will become the ‘test bed’ for creating paperless public service facilities - in other words, its residents will be able to tax their cars, access local authority planning permission details, pay their tax, process Social Welfare claims, all without leaving their homes.
For businesses in Ennis it means they will be able to file PAYE and VAT returns electronically; money can be moved between accounts electronically; security systems and video cameras will be linked to Gardai Stations; those companies with sister operations in different time zones will be able to function efficiently.
The development of the Information Age Town in Ennis means that individuals will have the option of working and studying at home. This is particularly important for people with disabilities, whose opportunities for self-empowerment and independent living will be enhanced. Ennis will become a ‘test bed’ for new applications in computer software for sight, hearing and motor impaired people. ISDN technology will make link ups to large multinationals inexpensive and efficient, and therefore expand the possibilities of creating employment in telemarketing and teleworking.
Ennis will be able to attract clean industries, creating hundreds of new jobs, and allowing its young people the chance to stay home and work, rather than having no choice but moving elsewhere to find employment.
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