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White Oaks PR. David McCourt. Shot by Claire Wood on 22nd April 16.

Rise aims to offer foundation for rural Ireland to flourish

Non-profit organisation looks to harness power of connectivity to breathe life into rural communities

NEWMARKET resident and National Broadband Ireland chairman David McCourt has launched a new non-profit organisation the Rise Global Foundation.
The goal of the organisation is to support businesses and social enterprises, seeking to combine an entrepreneurial mindset with technology to create jobs and pride of place.
Last week in Newmarket, Mr McCourt said he wants the new foundation to help rural communities build on the opportunities that the provision of broadband is giving them.
“I’ve seen how Newmarket has changed over the last 20 years, we used to have seven shops, now we have one supermarket. We used to have two bakeries, now we have none, we used to have two butchers now we have one. We used to have a woman’s clothing store on the corner.
“If you go back 50 or 60 years we used to have a movie theatre. A lot of things have been lost. National Broadband is the foundation to fix that problem, but I don’t want NBI or myself to be known for bringing Netflix to Clare or Kerry. I want to use that fibre to transform rural Ireland.”
Until the pandemic struck rural Ireland had been in a long spiral of negativity.
Since then the rise of remote working has presented obvious opportunities for the future, and Mr McCourt believes a revitalisation is possible.
He feels that leadership is required, and said that he visited villages in the UK, which demonstrated to him how important it is to have a thriving rural area.
“I visited two villages that were vibrant 100 years ago, 50 years ago they were dead. Today one is vibrant, one is still dead. They’re both the same distance from the airport, have the same natural resources.
“I spent the weekend twice in the village that was thriving, I’d go into every shop and ask the same question over and over; why is this village doing so well?
“The answer was that one or two men and women cared, they refused to stay down, they rethought their village and made it vibrant again. That can happen in every village in Ireland, I believe.”
Siobhan O’Driscoll, Youth and Community Development Officer at Obair accompanied him, and he said that her work and that of Obair offers a template to other communities.
“If every village had a Siobhán we’d have no problem in rural Ireland and if every village supported people like Siobhán and organisations like Obair we’d have no problems in rural Ireland,” said Mr McCourt.
Speaking about supports that are being given to local artisan producers, Ms O’Driscoll said a digital honesty box has been developed, which allows them to sell their products at the Tradaree building in Newmarket, without actually having to be physically present.
She also said the Rise Global Foundation is providing broadband connectivity at the building. “Those new enterprises will be able to connect into that for free when they’re starting out, they’ll be able to sell their products here, but they don’t have to stand here to sell them.
“Their phone will tell them when they’re out, tell them when they’ve made sales and all that. We’ve an opportunity for three artisan food products start-ups at the front and we’ve got funding to develop an app.”
Mr McCourt said that the foundation is at a very early stage and he expects there will be a lot of learning in the coming months.
“We actually don’t know all of the practical things we can do, which is why we wanted to start this partnership with Siobhán.
“We’re not trying to solve all the problems, we’re trying to figure out where the holes are and be ready to help if there is a hole. Also to facilitate volunteers to be able to help as well.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.