Connection holds the key to our working future

Covid-19 is driving us to new ways of working. In Future of Work, Newstalk’s Jess Kelly and Gavin McLoughlin will explore how long-lasting the changes will be, and how they will impact on other areas of our lives. In this week’s episode, in partnership with Vodafone Business, Jess and Gavin focus on connectivity

28th June, 2020
Connection holds the key to our working future

In the new digital economy, good broadband has become effectively as important a utility as water and electricity. That’s the logic underpinning the National Broadband Plan – which aims to bring good connectivity to underserved parts of the country.

Covid-19 is likely to require even more to be done to boost Ireland’s connectivity, with more people likely to be working from home. Fibre broadband may not work for every home, so alternative technologies like 5G or wireless broadband will have an important role to play as well.

But broadband is not the only area where the future world of work will pose challenges. Over the course of the pandemic, remote working technologies like Zoom have exploded in popularity and are likely to remain a key tool going forward.

These cloud-based technologies are supported by data centres, large numbers of which have sprung up around the country in recent years, with many more to come. These centres are enormous consumers of electricity, and will necessitate expensive upgrades to the grid to make sure they can be accommodated alongside the existing electricity demands.

If that weren’t enough, the shift to electric cars will mean more upgrades to make sure people have the capacity to charge their cars at home, while the shift away from using fossil fuel for heating will also place more demand on the grid. That’s because electricity will become our primary source of home heating via the increasing adoption of electric pumps.

It’s clear that meeting all these new demands will pose huge challenges for telecoms companies, electricity providers, and State bodies and policymakers.

In this episode, Gavin and Jess discuss the National Broadband Plan, and whether it goes far enough to meet the country’s connectivity needs. They discuss 5G and its potential to help address Ireland’s connectivity challenges, and also the downsides of connectivity; for example the ‘always on’ mentality and how it’s important to leave time to switch off.

In part two of the episode, they’re joined by Clare Duffy, network development and electrification manager at ESB Networks, the State body that manages the electricity cables that shoot off the macro grid out to homes and businesses. Clare outlines their plan to make sure everyone’s electricity needs are served, while also dealing with more renewable generation, data centres, electric car chargers and so on. She also discusses whether the grid reinforcement programme will lead to an increase in electricity bills for homes and businesses.

In part three of the episode, Gavin and Jess speak to Debbie Power, Vodafone’s country manager for internet of things (IoT) in Ireland. She discusses the potential IoT has to help businesses and citizens, including by boosting manufacturing efficiency, or allowing remote healthcare monitoring of patients. She also talks about the evolution of Vodafone’s product offering in this area, and how it’s important to ensure the public buy in to the adoption of new technologies.

If you’re a business owner or a householder looking to boost your connectivity capabilities, or somebody who wants to embrace cutting edge IoT technology in your home or workplace, you won’t want to miss this episode.

Next week’s edition of Future of Work will focus on childcare – exploring what kind of childcare system can best support parents and kids in the new world of work, and how that system should be paid for.

Gavin and Jess will also discuss how working patterns might adapt in future, including whether there should be a ‘new normal’ when it comes to working hours.

The final episode of the series will air the following week, and will focus on remote working hubs. Are these places about to take off, or will people just decide to stay in their homes instead?

As always, if you have any questions of your own or comments for the show, you can email [email protected], and Jess and Gavin will answer as many as they can with their expert guests. You can also subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts.

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