Global, national & local stakeholders join forces to bridge Ireland’s digital divide.
An Cosán Virtual Community College (An Cosán VCC) with the support of EPALE Ireland recently held its third annual "Community Partner Forum" on Wednesday 29th of May in NDRC, Dublin 8. The Forum welcomed Bairbre Nic Aongusa, Assistant Secretary at the Department of Rural and Community Development as keynote speaker. The event welcomed over 100 representatives from community education, public policy, local development, stage agencies and corporate sectors who came together to explore how technology is impacting the future of education, jobs, digital literacy, social enterprise and social inclusion at the grassroots level across Ireland.
Opening the event Catherine Breathnach, National Director of Adult Education An Cosán VCC speaking on behalf of Liz Waters CEO of An Cosán, welcomed all attendees emphasising the diversity of those present, saying “We are delighted to welcome such a diverse group of stakeholders from across Ireland as we gather together in collaboration to address some of the biggest challenges facing our society today”. Ms.Breathnach called for increased resources and funding in the community sector to enable it to embrace technological solutions in addressing the key challenge of digitisation. Liz Waters invited key stakeholders, funders and policy makers to hear these challenges facing the sector by saying: “We must address the global digital challenges facing our society which are having a very real impact at grassroots and community level, as a matter of urgency. The digital divide is real. Only 48% of Irish citizens have basic digital skills, so we must act now”.
An Cosán VCC was established in 2014 with the mission of empowering individuals and communities to learn using the latest virtual, online and mobile technologies.
Keynote speaker at the Forum, Bairbre Nic Aongusa, Assistant Secretary, Department of Rural and Community Development, said: “The Department of Rural and Community Development is committed to supporting vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities throughout Ireland. The new public library strategy, Our Public Libraries 2022 – Inspiring, Connecting and Empowering Communities seeks to establish a modern, progressive library service that connects and supports communities. Last year, the Department provided a major investment of some €5.6 million towards enhancing the technological capacity across the library network through the installation of digital learning suites, ICT infrastructure upgrades and new software in public libraries across the country.”
Monica Donlon, MD, Accenture in Ireland added: “Accenture is delighted to work with An Cosán VCC who are blazing a trail in the provision of real and tangible solutions to address Ireland’s digital skills gap. The 2019 Community Partner Forum was a powerful example of what can happen when a cross-sector coalition come together to explore ways of closing the digital divide. Our ongoing collaboration with An Cosán VCC is making a difference to the lives of individuals and communities across Ireland and we look forward to continuing this work.”
During the event, An Cosán VCC displayed a prototype of a digital skills assessment tool which will help people understand their current digital competencies as well as reflect on and identify their perceptions about their digital skills and offer a pathway to achieving basic digital competency based on the European Digital Competence Framework (DigComp).
An Cosán VCC have recently joined the Irish Digital Skills and Jobs Coalition and look forward to contributing at a national and European level.
Laura Austen-Gray, EPALE Coordinator for Ireland said: “We’re delighted to work with An Cosán VCC, on the Community Partner Forum as EPALE strives to bring adult educators together - both online and offline - to strengthen the adult education community”. EPALE provides an ePlatform for those working in adult learning.
Ben Hurley, CEO, NDRC who kindly hosted the event added “As an early stage investor in digital companies NDRC is keenly aware of the link between broader digital know how and digital entrepreneurship in our wider society to bridge the digital divide. We are delighted to support An Cosán VCC's efforts in this regard”. The digital skills assessment tool will be tested and trialed over the summer months through An Cosán VCC’s Technology Enhanced Community Education Network (TECEN). Community organisations are invited to participate in this exciting and innovative solution to the digital divide.
Mark Kelly of An Cosán VCC's Skills to Succeed Academy and Kieran Farrell of Accenture Interactive presentation slides are available here. In these they introduce An Cosán VCC's S2S Academy and Accenture's Digital Stepping Stones.
The slides from the panel discussion addressing the theme of "Inspiring local leadership to embrace innovation" can be found through the link here with presentations from Dr. Senan Cooke of Dunhill Rural Enterprise, Tracy Keogh of Grow Remote, and Máirín Ó Cuireáin of Robert Emmet Community Development Project.
To find out more information on this or other programmes contact:
Maria Flanagan, Community Partner Lead, An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC)
Phone: 01 534 1847 / Mobile: 086 822 3808