Traolach O’Callaghan, Springboard and Eithne Murphy, Deputy Manager Redclyffe Family Hub with some of the ICT devices funded under these new schemes.

IT schemes to connect the gaps

Efforts are ongoing to address difficulties people are having accessing technology.

Almost €1m was administered by Cork Education and Training Board (ETB) and Solas through a Mitigating Against Educational Disadvantage Fund, with 62 groups applying, while a further €125k was given to youth organisations to plug gaps in that sector. A separate emergency pot of money is being administered by Cork City Council reaching out to several organisations.

Denis Leamy, Chief Executive of Cork ETB, said learning and engagement can be revolutionised to meet current and future challenges when the right technology is made available. “This welcome funding, across several streams, will go a long way to enabling active engagement from various groups and learners throughout Cork city and county.”

Several digital IT hubs are set to be created urban and rural areas in an effort to level the playing field as part of a Government ICT grant, while several clubs and volunteer-led organisations successfully applied to upgrade or purchase devices.

Meanwhile a group led by the ETB, Cork City Council, UCC and MTU along with some industry partners was formed during the first lockdown to look at the difficulties faced by learners accessing devices and connectivity when schools, colleges and libraries had to close.

Cork ETB Senior Youth Officer Mick Finn said: “It became obvious very soon in the first lockdown that people were being isolated from online activities because of device and connectivity issues. A lot of work was done very quickly to identify these issues and individuals and communities are better equipped now. The grant schemes have helped to plug the gaps but more work is required to determine if there are still people and groups still on the peripheries of online involvement.”

As part of the collaboration, devices were delivered by organisations to families in temporary homeless accommodation, young people in Direct Provision and members of the Travelling community.

He concluded: “A laptop loan scheme is also being made available in the city’s libraries while some local youth services have increased their capacities to help provide ICT services for their target groups. We are fortunate that Cork has many great partnerships among community services in the city and county and this will help to provide launching pads for IT support into each area that needs it.”