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Digital transformation in rural areas

Digital transformation in rural areas

Transform knowledge in rural areas 

For digitalization to be holistic in rural areas, including in rural hubs, it needs to engage rural residents individually on the one hand and communities as a whole on the other. The undertaken methodology is characterized by community engagement via the application of bottom-up, non-hierarchical approaches that enable the effective identification of the needs of the targeted communities and consequently developing a myriad of activities that include the process of engagement and inclusion via collaboration. Indeed, it is precisely collaboration as such that is key not just for the successful management of the hubs, but for the future of the European digital ecosystem as a whole, which in contrast to the paradigms of China and the USA, is more about the model being sustainable, locally driven, regionally rooted, and inclusive. It is true that via the Digital Europe Programme (DEP), the European Commission recognized the importance of rural DIHs, which are regarded as central to developing local and regional data ecosystems. It is important to add that more effort needs to be put into rural DIHs, which, as we have shown, referring to Rundel et al. can effectively address the issue of connectivity, digital skills and above all, provide community training places for enhancing digital inclusion.Furthermore, a survey on the contribution of ICTs to the environmental sustainability actions of the EU businesses—the first of its kind—prepared by the EU Commission and published in November 2021, demonstrates that 66% of surveyed companies reported that they use ICT solutions as a way of reducing their environmental footprint, underlining an interesting relation between the ICTs and sustainability in addressing sustainability issues. If rural DIHs are about “hearing” and acknowledging local communities, economic growth, coming from their environment, social equity, livability and health, conviviality, transport, energy, water and waste management, and governance, with each of the dimensions being evaluated by local government, they are actually 11 proceeding dimensions of sustainability, which place themselves firmly into the paradigm of sustainable development. Although, to refer to Zavratnik et al. the opportunities offered by ICTs need to be (re)considered and included in strengthening the collaboration between (all levels of) decision-making authorities, communities, developers, and researchers. For this to occur, rural DIHs seem to offer a perfect EU (policy) instrument to address such a holistic approach.

This chapter discusses the rural transformation, a process of comprehensive societal change whereby rural societies diversify their economies and reduce their reliance on agriculture; become dependent on distant places to trade and to acquire goods, services, and ideas; move from dispersed villages to towns and small and medium cities; and become culturally more similar to large urban agglomerations. The rural transformation is the result, first of all, of the action of global drivers, such as the diversification of rural economies away from agriculture, the globalization of agrifood systems, and the urbanization of rural regions. While global forces drive this transformation, they are mediated by localized social structures, institutional frameworks, and local societies with different levels of human agency. The interplay of global and local factors explains why the rural transformation between and within different countries has different outcomes in terms of economic growth, social inclusion, and environmental sustainability.

Transform knowledge to meet global challenges

Mr. Radosevic said analysis indicates the need to reach beyond a narrow focus on research and development, and, instead, look towards structural transformation and how economies evolve regarding knowledge and technology exchange. He reported that countries show a limited ability to absorb technologies and that, while there are advances in digitalization, there are big differences from country to country, which may have a major effect on future growth. Upgrading technology along existing trajectories will not lead to sustainable development. Policies cannot be concerned only with one element of technology upgrading. Each country has a unique innovation ecosystem, and must understand its own technology upgrading profile and the direction of its structural transformation. “The main message is knowing yourself is very essential to forming effective policies,” he stated.

Because understanding the knowledge structure is very important, it can provide complete building blocks related to the study of social innovation. This structure also provides a convenient way to see the knowledge gaps and how topics show trends as inputs for further research in social innovation research related to rural development.

Transform rural areas into innovation hubs

Rural social innovation has developed into a critical factor for economic development, social life, and environmental sustainability. Rural social innovation can be an accelerator for accelerating growth. In the context of social innovation in rural areas, some structures and mechanisms need to be understood well because it is complex. Rural development must overcome poverty, marginalized communities, limited public goods provision services, out-migration, gender balance, and enrich local resources.

In the sector implementation cluster, there is still a lot of space for studies that can present how rural social innovation initiatives can build local communities by relying on creativity, culture, and local resources to become tourist destinations based on local wisdom.

By Roger K. Olsson

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