Digital Innovation Programme

The Digital Innovation Programme is an initiative of the Regional Telecommunications Development Unit of the Department of Rural and Community Development. It is designed to encourage local authority led projects that support digital development. These projects must promote, support, or otherwise advance at least one of the following seven pillars:

  • Digital Skills
  • Infrastructure
  • Innovation & Entrepreneurship
  • Digital Economy & Employment
  • Digital Services
  • Community & Culture  
  • Digital Transition

Projects that cut across more than one of the pillars are particularly welcome.

These projects will provide innovative digital solutions to local issues, help to establish or enhance digital / telecommunications services, or otherwise contribute to the Regional Telecommunications Development Unit’s mission to smooth the way for the rollout of the National Broadband Plan.

Digital Innovation Programme 2018 – Funded Projects

River Corrib Thermal Image Monitoring – Galway City Council – Funding: €24,000

The River Corrib is a fast flowing river. The banks and bridges in the Claddagh area of Galway City are known blackspots for people entering the river. This water safety initiative plans to provide early warning for emergency services which may help prevent loss of life. The system may also provide information which will assist in the early recovery of people lost in the Corrib or washed out to sea.

The project plans to use thermal imaging technology to detect persons entering the Corrib, the automated system will provide an early warning to monitoring station(s), including An Garda Siochana, who may remotely view the incident and dispatch emergency assistance if required.

 Mobile Coverage Blackspot at MalinBeg, Co. Donegal – Donegal County Council – Funding: €35,000

This project is a partnership between the local community and a telecoms operator that will see the use of publicly owned property used as a site for mobile phone infrastructure. This will provide coverage to the town and its environs for the first time. The project provides the opportunity to test out a solution to mobile phone blackspots in rural areas.

The project is one that will advance the theme of ‘Digital transition – Mobilising Communities’. The huge turnout for public meetings on the issue is indicative of the community’s proactive involvement in solving this local issue which will help improve their quality of life.

This project represents a collaboration between the local community and industry, supported by the local authority that could be replicated in other areas.

Ireland’s Road to 5G: Accelerating Deployment across Irish Towns and Cities – Dublin City Council – Funding: €24,000

With a joined up approach across central government, local government, industry and Irish cities and towns there is the possibility to transform our economy and society and take advantage of the possibilities that 5G can offer, including the possibility of providing high-speed home and business connection in even the most rural areas.

The purpose of this project is two-fold:

  1. To bring together industry and academic experts, local authority staff and public asset-owners in a unique process aimed at solving issues related to the deployment of 5G;
  2. based on the above engagements, create a comprehensive resource for local authorities across Ireland – a Whitepaper and associated collateral – that is accessible and practical, enabling the solutions identified to be replicated by Broadband Officers across Ireland.

This project has clear implications for the development of local digital strategies and supports improvement and enhancement of digital infrastructure. The project team is made up of experts in the field.

Shared Telecommunications Infrastructure and Co-Development – Sligo County Council – Funding: €30,000

The purpose of this project is to optimise the use of telecommunications infrastructure in the town centre by encouraging operators to share ducting, with the local authority providing a hub from which the operators can then access each other’s networks, and also providing routes through Council infrastructure/ducting, without further digs or installation of parallel infrastructure.

O’Connell Street in Sligo has been dug up several times recently, but a final street enhancement project is underway. In parallel with that project, this shared infrastructure  project involves the construction of “Meet-Me-Chambers” aka “Municipal Communication Hubs” through O’Connell Street while the street is dug for the last time.

This is an excellent example of co-operation in the field of infrastructure co-development, drawing together local authority and telco interests.

Free public WiFi – Grand Canal Greenway – Offaly County Council – Funding: €40,000

The Grand Canal Greenway / Blueway goes through the centre of County Offaly. The Offaly section, involving over 71 km of canal and crossing large tracts of bogland, enters the county near Edenderry and extends westwards through the towns and villages of Daingean, Tullamore, Pollagh to join the Shannon at Shannon Harbour.

The aim is to make Offaly a major cycling destination within Ireland for national and international visitors. Offaly is working towards a high quality accessible cycle trail network which will be a flagship tourism and recreation project for Ireland. This will provide a new identity for the county and new sources of employment into the future.

Providing Edenderry, Daingean, Tullamore and Pollagh and Shannon Harbour with free WiFi hotspots would be advantageous for tourists, who would enjoy an internet connection without roaming charges, and for the local economy, which would largely benefit from increased levels of tourism. Furthermore, local businesses and communities can use the WiFi to establish and run their businesses in rural areas.

The possible impact on the local economy and employment are significant. Furthermore, this project has the potential to serve as a robust example of the use of digital resources to enhance local tourism offerings and as a model for multi-agency co-operation.

Development of Wild Atlantic Way “Digital Discovery Points” – Kerry County Council – Funding: €32,000

This project will develop hardware and digital content in order to provide visitor access to interactive digital mapping at each Wild Atlantic Way ‘Discovery Point’ sign. Each Discovery Point will contain a QR code or iTag to allow fast access to interactive mapping on the visitor’s device.

Typically, tourist information is paper based – leaflets and maps – and online content is generally, and necessarily, pitched at a higher level that often doesn’t cover local areas and small towns in great detail. The full potential of the WAW concept, in attracting increased number of visitors, could be further built on through a digital interactive mapping tool, one that showcases local areas in detail and in a standardized way.

This is a welcome development of mapping resources. Adding local content makes interactive digital maps richer.

Sign of the Times – application development – Tipperary County Council – Funding: €8,000

Tipperary Town Gold Star Disability Awareness Project HSE, working in partnership with a number of specialist agencies in the community, including DeafHear.ie and Tipperary County Council, aim to create and design an interactive learning tool to work with young people and members of the Deaf community in Tipperary, suitable for use with young people in secondary schools and anyone who has an interest in learning to communicate through Irish Sign Language (ISL).

The plan is to develop a basic app available for use in all civic and public offices across the county, for all community and voluntary services so that when a Deaf client presents to any of these services, they and the staff they interact with have a resource to enable them to communicate effectively.

Smart Street Furniture – Fingal County Council – Funding: €72,000

The purpose of this project is to develop Fingal’s smart public infrastructure, showcasing their towns and villages as digital regions. This project aims to install outdoor public digital displays and smart benches in both rural villages and urban towns.

Digital display screens

These are outdoor freestanding LCD screens, built to withstand the elements and antisocial behaviour. The smart LCD screens will be used to showcase the region’s services and community activities and will act as a promotional tool to include citizens in community and council activities. These units will be strategically placed in areas of large footfall (e.g. outside shopping centres, parks, pitches, schools, main streets). The units will be WiFi enabled allowing the user to quickly display current content. Units can also install smart sensors to measure footfall, bicycle usage and environment.

Smart benches

Citizens using these smart benches can charge their devices and surf the internet wirelessly while they take a seat. These outdoor smart benches will be solar powered and AC powered. They are equipped with USB charging points and also enabled for wireless charging. The smart IOT bench is WiFi enabled and will act as a public WiFi hotspot. The bench is also equipped with sensors collecting data on temperature, humidity, device charging counters (cable & wireless), energy production and consumption, internet and data traffic usage, rainfall and system analysis.

This project offers a valuable insight into the application of the Internet of Things to public spaces, and the use of inert objects as data dissemination and data collection points. The amenity to the citizen is a particularly welcome element.

Where in Wicklow – Wicklow County Council – Funding: €4,800

The purpose of this project is to facilitate the public with access to existing, emerging and developing digital services being provided by Wicklow County Council via interactive touchscreen technology. It is envisaged to be a focal point for the public to interact with local authority digital services, online supports and access information via the ‘Where in Wicklow’ Interactive Public Information Portal.

The services referred to include planning applications and information, Census data, location of local facilities, recreational and tourist location and details, development plans and land zoning mapping, etc.

Erris History and Folklore Digitisation Project – Mayo County Council – Funding: €50,000

The aim of this project is to digitise, catalogue and archive an extensive collection of Irish oral history and folklore, thereby preserving the collection, and making it freely available and searchable on the internet through the upskilling and training of local people in the rural Erris Gaeltacht area on the Mullet Peninsula.

This material has been collected over several decades, beginning sometime in the sixties. It contains recorded oral histories, folklore, rare music recordings, genealogy information, archaeology, Irish language history, the history of place names and their origins. The collection consists of printed material, video, reel to reel, DVDs, CDs and photographs, which are not in a stable condition.

If the collection is not digitised and made available online a valuable strand in the fabric of Irish history from a unique way of life in a rural Gaeltacht community will be lost forever.

 Cemetery Digitisation – Westmeath – Funding €53,000

Currently cemetery records in Westmeath are paper based. The proposed project will convert records to a digital format, facilitating improved cemetery management internally and facilitating public access to cemetery records. The solution will also provide undertakers with an improved method of managing their interment operations. Digitisation of the records will also remove the risk of data loss if paper records were to be lost or destroyed.

This project marries two discreet but related fields: the public use of cemetery records and processing applications for cemetery use. This is a highly innovative project that has potential for other local authority services aside from burial grounds.

EuroVelo Route 1 (EV1): Smart Technologies for Rural Tourism – Sligo, Donegal & Leitrim – Funding: €75,000

The EuroVelo Route 1 is an on/off road cycle touring route from Norway to Portugal via Ireland. The objective of the project is to support cyclists, agencies and aligned communities with smart technology information to enrich the experience for all involved.

The technology –‘push notifications’ – will guide the visitor to key infrastructure nodes en route, provide real time information from the visitors at ’hot spots’, inform local authority future planning and investment decision-making and allow the rural community to respond with aligned and tailored support services.

The local authorities will utilise the information gleaned for improved regional route planning and exchanges to optimise the route experience, support rural services and maximise the economic potential of providing bespoke visitor experiences. It will support the creation of a destination of excellence, amplify the natural and cultural heritage of the region, and support the green economy through the creation of an emerging sustainable source of regional tourism: cycling.

Report / Survey re: Precision Farming – Tipperary – Funding: €6,000

Precision agriculture (PA) or precision farming, is a modern farming management concept using digital techniques to monitor and optimise agricultural production processes. Rather than applying the same amount of fertilisers over an entire agricultural field, or feeding a large animal population with equal amounts of feed, PA will measure variations in conditions within a field and adapt its fertilising or harvesting strategy accordingly. Likewise, it will assess the needs and conditions of individual animals in larger herds and optimise feeding on a per-animal basis.

This project will undertake the research and stakeholder engagement necessary to designing a PA trial at a Research Farm.

Wicklow Welcomes All – Wicklow County Council

Funding awarded: €4,800

Wicklow County Council will produce a series of informative videos to help members of the public with accessibility arrangements for County Buildings and other Municipal District Offices. This ‘Wicklow Welcomes All – help to plan your visit’ initiative will take users through different aspects involved in visiting County Buildings and the process of accessing different services and information face-to-face.

The focus of these videos will be to assist people with learning difficulties, Autism, physical disabilities, and/or anxiety concerns in the different elements encountered when visiting Council offices. The viewing of the videos online will also generally enable the wider public to be more comfortable and access aware when visiting their Local Authority.

For example, when arriving by car, Wicklow Country Council will produce a video that will bring the visitor on a visual tour of the different elements upon arrival; such as entry through the main gate, car park location, building entry, approaching reception, signing in to get a building pass, examples of accessing counter-front services, etc.

The productions will have a voice-over explaining the journey, be subtitled and also have a sign language version. The videos will be embedded onto the www.wicklow.ie website.

Internet of Things (IoT) test and trial development for Donegal – Donegal County Council

Funding awarded: €68,000

As part of the Donegal Digital Action Plan, Donegal is exploring smart technology to improve quality of life, increase efficiencies and enhance safety for its population. The purpose of this project is to develop an Internet of Things (IoT) project in County Donegal, with the end product being a network that can be extended across the county over future years.

The project will explore the potential of different sensors in a combination of urban and rural locations within the county to develop improved public services for the people of Donegal. These services will focus on areas provided by the core Local Authority departments of Roads and Transportation, Water and Environment and Economic Development, Information Systems and Emergency Services. These will be essential services that will see all communities benefit through the increased gathering, collation and dissemination of in-depth and real-time data that will better inform public service delivery so it can address issues more effectively and efficiently.

Creative Ability Hub – Fingal County Council

Funding awarded: €40,000

Not So Different Creative Ability Hub celebrates diversity and promotes inclusion of people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to realise their full potential through education and employment. The Hub is a social enterprise comprising of a local authority, local development company, second level and third level educators that work with the neuro-diversity specialists Not So Different.

The hub will provide employability skills training and support talented creative individuals to become work-ready, and build connections with employers that value talents such as logic and pattern thinkers, thinking in pictures, problem solving, analytical abilities, creative and innovative abilities and others. Creative Ability Hub Activities include:

  • identification of strengths, and assessment of employability;
  • undertaking ‘enterprise readiness training’;
  • attending seminars and workshops on social and life skills;
  • participating in an industry mentoring program with employers;
  • being considered for internships or work experience assignments; and
  • working with employment support team on feedback from work experience opportunities.

Employers will provide mentoring and coaching and the neurodiversity employability team will provide additional neurodiversity specific training.

The funding will go towards the kit-out of the room providing 13 creative digital workstations comprised of high spec graphic PCs, laptops, hard drives, creative suite software, wired fit out and installation.

Feasibility Study on Home Swaps – Cork City Council

Funding awarded: €8,000

Cork City Council Housing Authority commenced an online Choice Based Letting Scheme in November 2015.  In 2017, it rolled out the service to include properties to be let by Approved Housing Bodies. A Focus Group was set up to design the scheme and this model proved successful. Easy to Use web-based services that show transparency around housing supply became part of national policy in both the Social Housing Strategy 2020 and the Re-Building Ireland Action Plan.

Cork City Council is now keen to explore the feasibility of introducing a home swap scheme.  This is covered under local policy documents described as mutual exchanges.  These are paper based and occur infrequently.  The feasibility study will explore the introduction of an online system that would identify ‘matches’ for those wishing to swap their homes due to under utilisation or overcrowding.

To Cork City Council’s knowledge, this is an innovative project in Ireland.  Some work around home swaps does occur in the UK.

Every stage will be documented and a final report made available with a view to development of a pilot subject to further funding under DIP 2019.  The study will include recommendations as to how to introduce an online home swap scheme piloted in Cork City following research.

Upgrading of critical Traffic Signals communications infrastructure – Kildare County Council

Funding awarded: €41,250

All remote traffic signals installations in County Kildare such as signalised junctions, Pelican Crossing etc. connect to a Remote Monitoring System (RMS) based in the Traffic Management Centre (TMC) in Kildare County Council Headquarters. The Remote Monitoring System alerts staff in the Traffic Management Centre of faults that occur on-site in order to rectify faults in a safe and timely manner.

The current system uses the old GMS Telemetry, but this method of communication has become unreliable. Service providers have indicated that they will no longer support this network and this method of communication will become obsolete.

The project will involve;

1) swapping out old style modems with digital supported modems

2) Reconfiguring the sites with IP addresses on the RMS system in-station,

3) Testing the performance and reliability of the new communication method

4) Carrying out a cost benefit analysis of operating cost of Digital with Telemetry dial up technology

This is an issue that will become increasingly relevant to other local authorities, but also gives us an opportunity to make street furniture, such as traffic lights, 5G ready. This project will serve as a proof-of-concept initiative, improving the quality of connectivity to traffic lights.

Mayo Telecommunications Survey – Mayo County Council

Funding awarded: €16,244

The purpose of this project is to survey and digitise all telecommunications ducting infrastructure and other assets under the control of the local authority which could be used for telecommunications purposes and make this information available to the winning bidder for the National Broadband Plan and other telcos or industry as required through a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) Digital Map.

Once this has been completed a report and a guideline document will be prepared and submitted to the Department of Rural and Community Development to assist other counties in mapping their ducting infrastructure.

VEX Robotics in Primary Schools – Offaly County Council

Funding awarded: €40,000

Primary school is the most formative time in a young student’s life. The best way to instil a lifelong interest in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM) in children is to provide a fun, engaging, and hands-on opportunity to explore and experience it for themselves.

VEX Robotics is an exciting and fun program where primary school children from 5-12 learn about STEM while having fun. They design, build, program and compete with their robot in a competition organised by Offaly County Council (OCC) in partnership with Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) & Midland Science. VEX IQ is a primary school level competition and OCC will commit to rollout out this program from 2019 – 2021 in Offaly.

Each primary school will be assigned a STEM VEX IQ coordinator who is studying STEM in 3rd level to help and assist with the rollout of this project. OCC will host and organise the “Offaly VEX IQ Championship” each year in Áras an Chontae (OCC HQ) where students, teachers, parents, industry, elected members, etc. will be invited to attend the event. OCC will promote the event through all communication channels and the overall winner each year will have the opportunity to represent Offaly in the national Vex IQ finals in Cork. Schools will also get an opportunity to visit industries and companies in the midlands where robotics are used.

DigiClare – Connecting Communities Project ( Phase 1) – Clare County Council

Funding awarded: €28,000

This project aims to provide a programme of Digital familiarisation targeting our aging population through the provision of customised classes and workshops. Clare County Council in partnership with small local providers will deliver these courses in facilities and locations throughout the county. Initially utilising Digital Hubs for the pilot classes, once proofed Clare County Council are committed to rolling out the programme in multiple locations. The programmes will cover topics such as (1) familiarisation with technology and practical uses of tablets and smart phones, (2) connecting communities, families and friends, (3) the internet as a source of information,(4) Access to and using Online services.

A programme is now being developed which will be delivered in an interesting informal manner covering the topics outlined above. This programme will be expanded. The Council also see this as a social outlet for our participants.

Initially targeting the aged sector of over 55s which makes up 27% of the county’s population this model will be used to deliver digital programmes to other sectors of society going forward.