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How SMEs in rural Clare could be cloud computing with their continental rivals

It’s part of a pilot plan to stop rural businesses in Ireland sliding behind competitors in Europe.

Image: Laptop user in field via Shutterstock

SMALL BUSINESSES IN Clare will be hooked into virtual networks with their European counterparts in a trial aimed at stopping rural operators falling further behind their continental rivals.

The EU-backed pilot scheme – dubbed the Create project – will be run for the first time on Irish soil in Co Clare to test the different ways struggling country small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can do better through technology.

The EU’s project officer for the region, Majella O’Brien, said rural SMEs in Ireland were trailing their European competitors when it came to making the most of technology and investing in IT.

She said, as part of the pilot, rural SMEs would be able to experiment with “virtual clustering” with businesses elsewhere in Europe’s northwest to help them cut costs and up their trade.

We are looking at ways SMEs could work together – we could have an SME in Clare working with an SME in France, for example.”

But O’Brien said there would be no pre-made plan for businesses joining the program and they could get help with anything from e-commerce to social media.

Kilbaha Kilbaha, Co Clare. Source: brianfagan

Hard hit and slow net

O’Brien said the program was about finding what would work to improve business for country operators and stimulate the rural economy.

“What we want to know is, if they go through with this advice are there going to be improved sales, are they going to take on more employees and are they going to be more efficient in the workplace?,” she said.

The thing is, we don’t know until we talk to them exactly what it is that we can do to help them.”

Rural areas and small towns suffered the worst on average in the recession with unemployment in these regions nearly tripling between 2006 and 2011, according to the Central Statistics Office.

There is also a wide chasm between businesses in the major cities and smaller towns or country regions when it comes to fast internet access.

The €1.5 million pilot project, which is being run in five countries, will also look at what faster broadband and computer hardware and software investments can do for rural operations.

Organisers hope the final scheme will eventually be rolled out in 650 country SMES if the Co Clare trial is successful.

Nationwide, SMEs including small- and medium-sized farm businesses employ about 70% of private-sector workers and account for about half of all turnover.

Any Co Clare businesses looking to get involved can email: localenterprise@clarecoco.ie.

READ: Three weeks later, thousands in Clare can drink their water again

READ: Clare storm repairs ‘on hold’ because of funding confusion

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About the author:

Peter Bodkin  / Editor, Fora

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