The newly appointed Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey TD told this morning’s Serving the E-Consumer conference that communications technology such as broadband and mobile phones should be used to bridge social divides in Ireland. He told the conference that free text messaging for deaf people is among various possibilities being examined by his department.
The conference, organised by the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), was Dempsey’s first public engagement in the technology sector in his new ministerial role. At the conference Dempsey unveiled a new ComReg consumer website www.askcomreg.ie, which is designed for consumers and provides them with information in relation to mobile phones, fixed-line phones, the internet and the postal sector.
Minister Dempsey told delegates from all fields in the technology and communications sector: “I see huge possibilities for the role of ICT in social development.”
On this note he went on to say that the Broadband for Schools programme his department in partnership with the IBEC-backed Telecommunications and Internet Federation to deploy broadband to more than 4,200 schools was progressing well. “Tenders will be finalised in the next few weeks. Some 4,200 schools will be broadband enabled by the start of the 2005 school year. A lot of this will be deployed at no cost to the schools themselves,” Dempsey said, adding that training and software will be included in the rollout.
“If we want technology, to work as an educational tool we will need to integrate it fully into the school curriculum.”
Preaching a strong message on social inclusion, Dempsey said: “Because the scale of the economy will increase incrementally in the short to medium term, my department has a huge role to play in furthering the provision of broadband infrastructure.
“Phase II of the Government’s regional broadband scheme will see broadband investment take place in 90 towns with populations of more than 1,500. We will commit €100m to this over the next two years.
“Also, I expect to see some 150 smaller communities avail of broadband through the Group Broadband Scheme to which we are contributing €20m,” Dempsey told the conference.
“All groups of society should be equipped in order to encourage the development of the knowledge society. I don’t want an Ireland where e-commerce can’t flourish outside Dublin. The Government can’t stand by if the digital divide deepens,” Dempsey continued, saying that elderly people and the disabled have the most to gain through new technology.
Dempsey said that among various social inclusion policies being examined by his department was the provision of free text messaging for deaf people, for example.
By John Kennedy
Pictured: A new consumer website called www.askcomreg.ie was launched this morning by the Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources, Noel Dempsey TD, with chairman of ComReg, John Doherty and Isolde Goggin, commissioner, ComReg