Adrian Begley, Chairperson, Arranmore Island Community Council
In a world where life seems to be moving faster than ever, it is sometimes difficult to strike a balance between being productive in the working world while still being able to maintain a good quality of life. It is not always easy to find a workspace which provides what is needed for one to excel in their chosen field of work while still being able to live in an idyllic setting. Imagine having a five-minute commute from your front door to your office, and being able to sit in a modern, luxurious workspace at a desk overlooking a beach and rolling waves, while still having access to highspeed internet connectivity and state of the art web conferencing facilities as good as you would find in Dublin, London or New York.
While this might seem like a dream, it is now a reality on Arranmore Island, County Donegal. With less opportunities for employment in traditional industries such as fishing and farming, many of the island’s school leavers in recent years have been moving into industries on leaving third level education far removed from what used to be the norm, leading to Arranmore’s youth moving away from their home place in search of work. In an attempt to turn the tide on the need for islanders to have to leave their home place, in 2017 Arranmore Island Community Council embarked on a project called #Cominghome and asked the Arranmore diaspora what was needed to make Arranmore Island a place they felt they could return home to live once more. From that survey it was clear that while Arranmore had so much going for it, what was missing was employment opportunities and highspeed broadband to allow those who could work remotely to do so from Arranmore.
With funding from the Department of Community and Rural Development obtained through Donegal County Council, the island’s council set about establishing a digital hub in which would be a shared workspace with reliable highspeed internet. By Spring 2019, this project had come to fruition and Arranmore Island is now able to boast about having Ireland’s first offshore digital hub. Named MODAM, an abbreviation of Mol Oifig Digiteach Arainn Mhor, the new community run initiative has gained global interest. This is in part due to an advertising campaign by Three Ireland who have worked in partnership with the island council to supply internet connectivity to the hub and the wider community. But also with assistance from the creative media company Boys & Girls the island council have sent out an open letter to the world announcing that Arranmore’s digital hub and indeed other businesses on the island are now open, ready and able to interact with others around the world with their new improved internet connectivity.
The digital hub is already a place where islanders who can work remotely frequent. In a very short space of time the diaspora have quickly caught on to the idea of being able to extend their holidays on the island, in some cases trebling the length of their normal time “at home”, being now able to work while they are there. Bookings for desk space in MODAM during the summer months are already being made by the diaspora and there is now talk of individuals thinking of moving home to the island to live once more now they have a facility which allows secure, fast reliable internet. There are even islanders considering taking on a new career which would allow them to work from Arranmore and the island council have already been working with Grow Remote to show those interested how they can make such a move.
But it’s not just the diaspora they are reaching out to. Arranmore Island Community Council are also very aware of the digital nomad market, individuals who like to travel and are able to work from anywhere in the world as long as they have the connectivity to do so. Such digital nomads can now travel to a unique and idyllic location such as Arranmore Island and work in a space which is as modern and fresh looking as any new office in any major city in the world. Not only does it have the office space, but it also has a break out room for meetings and state of the art video conferencing facility all using technology thanks to partnerships with Samsung and Cisco. The facility even has en-suite accommodation on site. Not only that, but right on the doorstep of MODAM is a golden beach where you kayak or sail, and endless country lanes to explore, on foot or by bicycle which you can hire from the island community centre. And all this in addition to the several bars, cafés and self-catering accommodation also available on the island. Far from being a quaint throwback to Ireland of years gone by, Arranmore Island is a vibrant community which, with the addition now of MODAM, is the ideal place to strike that perfect work/life balance. With nearby Donegal airport providing 45 minute flights to international airports such as Dublin and Glasgow, Arranmore Island is on the doorstep of the world, and might now well be the pearl in the world’s oyster.