On February 9, 2021 the DESIRA project (http://desira2020.eu/) organised a policy workshop to discuss the influence of digitalisation on shaping the future of agriculture, forestry and rural areas. The on-line event attracted rather wide audience of 57 participants from DESIRA consortium members to the European Commission officers.
BSC researchers presented findings of a special task-force study on how digitalisation may impact various aspects of rural life from services to jobs, to income, to environment, social inclusion, governance and more. The study suggests that three main positive impact pathways of digitalisation are related to: (i) improved access to information and services, (ii) new ways of work and business in rural areas, and (iii) new interconnections between urban and rural, various development fields and sectors. Digitalisation also advances flexible forms of everyday-life and wellbeing by supporting distant healthcare, remote learning, combined residency, smart mobility, etc.
The key digital game-changers (or mixes of technologies and social solutions) that will have the strongest impact on rural life in long term are:
- Technologies targeting farm management and potentially impacting rural areas. For example, smart management networks coordinating the use of digital technologies on farms (e.g. precision agriculture, remote sensing, mobile applications) and simultaneously having a positive impact on energy monitoring, water management, working conditions and other aspects of rural life.
- Solutions targeting the provision of public goods and services. For example, developing inter-operational platforms ensuring quick access to the services of state institutions and municipalities. The Latvian state service portal latvija.lv can be seen as a prototype of such platforms servicing the population.
- Technologies enabling new business models and practices. For example, dynamic purchasing platforms connecting consumers and producers via digital marketing. svaigi.lv can be taken as illustration. Such technologies trigger new business practices that extend over territorial and social boundaries and influence also consumer habits and wider rural business landscape.
- Solutions enabling more efficient interaction across sectors and spaces. For example, the European Smart Villages Network (https://enrd.ec.europa.eu/enrd-thematic-work/smart-and-competitive-rural-areas/smart-villages_en) connects initiatives around revitalising rural services through digital and social innovation.
However, digitalisation can generate uneven development. To prevent from marginalisation, polarisation, and to ensure equal access to the possibilities created by digitalisation, active policies should be put in place. All groups need to be heard and involved.
Therefore, some of the key recommendations to guide digitalisation include:
- Favour digital inclusion and digital skill development of the population.
- Develop well-coordinated digital ecosystems that link various groups of population, policies, and supportive intermediaries (digital hubs, action groups, smart villages, umbrella platforms, educational programmes, etc.).
The full report is available here: https://desira2020.eu/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/DESIRA_LTVRA_Rural_fv.pdf
For more information on the DESIRA contribution to the Long Term Vision for Rural Areas see: https://desira2020.eu/resources/contribution-to-the-long-term-vision-for-rural-areas/