Wednesday | 8th February 2023

Why digital is so important to towns – Interview with Oonagh McCutcheon of .IE

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Oonagh McCutcheon

.IE are members of our @DigitalDunLaoghaire steering group – https://www.digitaldunlaoghaire.ie/about-activating-our-town-through-digital

Digital transformation is opening up new opportunities for businesses across the economy. Few people have seen this transformation at work as closely as Oonagh McCutcheon, Corporate Communications Manager at .IE, the national registry for the .ie namespace and  technical guardian of the national critical infrastructure. The company’s purpose is to  enable and empower people and communities across Ireland to thrive online and this underpins all their activities.

.IE was spun out of UCD in 2000 and had its first office at Windsor Terrace in Dun Laoghaire town shortly after. McCutcheon and the team are proud members of the business community both here in town and across the country.

The Centre of the Irish Internet is in Dun Laoghaire

.IE is an organisation most Irish internet users encounter every day without realising it.

The team at .IE does a huge amount of work behind the scenes that’s not always visible to domain holders or the general public. They were designated an Operator of Essential Services (OES) under the EU Directive. They manage the technical infrastructure and have a fair and transparent registration system.

In addition, the company has a strong corporate social responsibility programme.

“Our purpose is to enable and empower people and communities across Ireland to thrive online,” McCutcheon said.

Why is the centre of the Irish internet hub in Dun Laoghaire?

The answers won’t surprise most locals.

“Dun Laoghaire has excellent infrastructure and public spaces,” McCutcheon said. “It’s also fabulous for transport connectivity including the DART and buses.  It also has a variety of shops and cafes, the Lexicon library and meeting rooms and the beautiful Royal Marine Hotel.  In Dun Laoghaire, we’ve a lovely collaborative working spirit with a range of people, from the LEO to web developers to DigitalHQ and many others.”

The Digital Transformation is About Community

McCutcheon’s work is all about helping people get online, which is transformative for Irish businesses and communities. However, the work goes far beyond setting up a .ie domain. Transformation is  about communities harnessing digital technologies for the betterment of their towns. This includes many groups  – businesses, local Chambers and other development groups. And it’s the community that motivates McCutcheon.

“What I love about what I do is the .IE Digital Town Programme. I like getting out and about and meeting the influencers, stakeholders and groups. Whether it’s membership organisations, professional groups, or web developers – there is a real spirit of cooperation with people working towards the same end goal.”

The .IE Digital Town Programme was developed to foster digital enhancement and adoption in Ireland; helping businesses, citizens and communities harness the benefits of the internet and to thrive online; to support remote working, tackling the digital divide; decentralisation and rural development; to encourage sustainability through an enhanced digital economy; to advocate for a strong internet ecosystem to enable a better Ireland online.

One element of the programme is the .IE Digital Town Awards which highlight the benefits and possibilities of digital and celebrate the digital achievements of local towns across Ireland.  There is a total prize fund of €100,000 in 2021, across 14 award categories. On June 10, .IE will choose its first Digital Town Award winners from its short list of candidates. (Disclosure: Dun Laoghaire is among the shortlisted towns in the Urban category.)

While the awards are almost here, there’s no better time to get involved with the Digital Town programme. As McCutcheon says, it’s all about community.

“Often, small projects that start out as a standalone project and develop into bigger initiatives are the springboard for digital towns. You need more than projects though. You also need to bring people together and instead of doing individual projects work on one big project that builds consensus and forms relationships.”

Even better, a Digital Town can be anywhere.

“There’s a very good project on Arranmore Island. The community came together  and decided internet infrastructure was the way to tackle depopulation. Now, there’s high speed broadband, and people can work remotely from Arranmore. They’re also working on further projects, such as using Internet of Things applications to support the community in assisted living for the elderly”, McCutcheon said.

“All you need is a willingness [to go digital] and the skills will develop from there.”

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