Celebrating Digital Innovation: The .ie Digital Town Awards

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By Oonagh McCutcheon, National Director of the .ie Digital Town Programme

From revitalising town centres to propelling sustainability initiatives, digital technology serves as a catalyst for positive change. In support of these developments, the .ie Digital Town Awards in Ireland honour the strides made by communities across the country in embracing digital innovation. With significant investment and political support, these awards highlight the transformative power of digital in diverse spheres of life, starting from their potential to enhance connectivity to their role in revolutionising agricultural practices. As we celebrate the achievements of digital pioneers in Ireland with “.ie” – the country’s official registry of .ie domain names – we are reminded that innovation knows no bounds and inspires communities to embrace the possibilities of the digital age. 

Introducing the .ie Digital Town Awards 

Every day, communities across Ireland drive digital innovation and create digital solutions to enhance the lives of their citizens. To celebrate this, the .ie Digital Town Awards were developed by .ie, the trusted Irish national registry for over 330,000 domain names in 2021. In this blog, the team at .ie is delighted to showcase some of the digital projects from previous winners and finalists of the Awards.

The purpose of the .ie Digital Town Awards is to address digital enhancement and adoption in Ireland. They promote awareness, knowledge, use, and understanding of digital by Irish citizens, businesses, and communities. They also highlight the benefits and possibilities of digital and celebrate the digital achievements of towns, big and small. In this sense, the Awards are also a chance to recognise and show appreciation for the volunteers, communities, and business leaders across the country who devote their spare time to enhancing their local spaces. 

The Value of Digital Innovation in Ireland

It is important for towns and communities to embrace digital innovation. ‘Digital’ in itself offers the opportunity to create new ways of doing things, to promote innovation, and to breathe new life into local communities, making them more attractive places to live and work as well as contributing to a more sustainable future. This opens a world of opportunities for people and businesses within towns. Embracing digital innovation also means that we can do things more efficiently and help members of a community feel more involved and empowered. 

Investing in Digital Innovation

The investment by .ie in Irish digital innovation is significant – a €1m fund over four years supports both the Awards and .ie Digital Town Blueprint research conducted by Dublin City University and University of Galway.

The Awards have won immense support from politicians at both national and local levels. At the launch of the 2024 Awards, Minister of State for Trade Promotion, Digital and Company Regulation, Dara Calleary TD, said: 

Not only do these awards highlight the benefits and possibilities of digital transformation in Ireland, they are fundamental to promoting awareness, use and understanding of digital offerings for our communities, for businesses and for our citizens the length and breadth of the country. Since the foundation of the awards, it has been inspiring to see such positive change brought about in local communities across the country through digital innovation.

Over the last four years, the range and breadth of projects has been truly impressive. We have seen some great examples of towns that are using digital to fight back and help renew and invigorate their space. To determine the Award winners, an independent judging panel examines how a project’s digital innovation efforts will contribute to the betterment of their town and the wider town community. 

The Digital Sustainability category recognises projects which harness digital transformation, such as enhanced connectivity and the Internet of Things (IoT), to improve the environment and support sustainable business operations. The 2023 Award winner was Hollymount in Mayo with Eco-Powered Cabinets. This project saw two eco-powered cabinets installed on Croagh Patrick, a mountain in the West of Ireland, to securely store defibrillators and life-saving medications to treat cardiac arrests. 

Pictured above – Darren Ford, project manager, Eco-powered cabinets with life-saving equipment, Hollymount, Co. Mayo.

The Agri-tech category recognises projects which aim to help the farming community by using digital technology to improve efficiency and profitability. Clonmel in Tipperary were the winners of this category in 2023 with the Smart Skills for Farming Communities Project. The initiative was developed to help farmers use new technologies to make their work easier, save time and money, as well as improve the sustainability and profitability of their farms. The project found that 60% of farmers reported barriers to digital training and supports and addressed this issue by providing practical digital training in areas such as soil fertility technology, grassland management technology, tech for time and labour saving, and farm management systems and apps. This project was also selected as the overall winner in 2023.

Pictured above is the Clonmel, Co. Tipperary Smart Skills for Farming Communities project team.

The Digital Newcomer category was created for early-stage projects. Portumna in Galway were the winners of this category in 2023 with a project that aimed to pass on local stories to future generations by recording family histories

The 2023 winner videos are available here. 

The .ie Digital Town Awards remind us that the spirit of ingenuity thrives in the hearts and minds of individuals and organisations committed to driving positive change in towns across Ireland.  We believe that many towns across Europe face similar issues and are happy to share our learnings to date. If you would like to get in touch to learn more, please contact [email protected]

Header image created by Luiz Filipe Evelin Arruda.

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