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An example of ICT from the Outer Hebrides

INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY - 14 - 1999-12-03

Although the Western Isles suffer from the traditional problems associated with remote, peripheral rural areas, the success of this project have resulted in international acclaim with rural development organisations from as far as Western Australia as well as many Northern European regions making their way to this region to study the methodology and strategies for success for this Information Age revolution.

BRUSSELS - The winner of the category Best Example in SMEs at the European Telework Week 1999 is Telework Facilitation Service for the Western Isles of Scotland carried out by work-global.com is the teleworking facilitation arm of the Western Isles ICT Advisory Service (WI-ICTAS) formed in 1994 with assistance from the European Objective I programme. For the last few decades the Western Isles has suffered from population decline caused by the loss of many jobs in the traditional industries of fishing, weaving, merchant marine and agricultural sectors. The young people leave to go to university in mainland Scotland and after graduating there are few opportunities to return. The main objective of work-global.com could be simply stated as "providing new jobs and interesting careers for the people of the Western Isles, reversing years of population decline and giving new life to these culturally rich communities". As a result a Research & Development Centre working on new Internet & telephony solutions was opened as well as a Cisco Regional Academy based in the islands, a remote learning centres in partnership with a new Virtual University, The University of the Highlands & Islands of Scotland and a regional website for the promotion of the area - Virtual Hebrides http://www.hebrides.com.

Donnie Morrison, from WI-ICTAS, gives our readers an overview of the major achievement of the project. What are the economic achievements of your project? Could you provide us with some figures? Over 150 jobs created or enabled in the last 4 years. These are spread between homebased teleworking jobs, teleservice centre jobs and jobs created at local ICT companies as a result of new companies setting up and also support contracts and new installations for incoming companies. These jobs are all at higher salaries than previous office based jobs in this area. We are now progressing to a new Research & Development facility being set-up by one of the companies, (see the web site http://www.iomart.com) This is a company I managed to bring to these islands and is the first Internet support centre based on a remote island. What are the main influences and social impacts of the ICT on the local community? Fantastic in as much that we are managing to make a start on reversing a population decline which has being going on for years. We are also managing to get people with appropriate skills to get jobs back in the island were previously they always had to leave their families. Effectively we have managed to create a new sector of economic growth (ICT) where none existed before.