WHILE WALKING ACROSS several acres of warm pasture today alongside 80,000 other people (driver at right included), I wondered what connected Ireland will be like in two years. Several of the connected communities that I saw under sun-swept awnings in Piltown, County Kilkenny, today depend on State grants to build websites (like this one) and to fund meet-ups between rural communities. That funding is going to dry up quickly. The regional authorities (responsible for WasteNot.ie, the site I watched being re-dedicated in front of a small group) are withering, manpower returning to local authorities and central government funding cleaned out. Mobhaile, the multi-million euro blogging project, is shuttering, without any handshakes with the locals who used it. That project served several community groups well. The energy behind the online communities should be steered towards low-cost blogging platforms. Some of the Mobhaile groups could do well on Facebook. It's remarkable that so many rural communities actually established their online identity because that means they had some form of internet service close to the farm. It would be a shame to lose the initiative when funding lines dry up. In my Tipperary Institute position, I'm working with the Rural Development Support Unit, trying to figure out a way to directly contact those community groups who will be cut loose without support due to the austere government budget in December. I'm sure that as I walked the fields of Piltown, I saw the faces of hundreds of people today who will be affected by those cutbacks.