Knowledge Cluster on Improving services through digitalisation
About the cluster
The digital services cluster is about utilising digital technologies to address challenges frequently faced by rural communities: Enabling access to services of public interest, meeting the demands of an aging population, facilitating access to employment, strengthening social cohesion and volunteering.
Many rural communities face challenges related to demographic changes, workforce development, infrastructure, and community preservation. Compared to their urban counterparts, for example, they tend to have fewer educational institutions, see more hospitals closing and experience less economic growth. Also, the digital divide between urban and rural areas has been discussed for some time now. Nevertheless, good examples can be found of how digital services can help to address challenges specifically experienced by rural communities. Public services – in the areas of education, health and administration for example – can be made available across spatial distances by means of digital technologies. Such technologies can also help people to maintain social exchange with others and to engage jointly in one’s own concerns. Not at least, they can be applied to bring work to people instead of bringing people to work (a trend particularly reinforced due to Covid-19). However, in order to derive tangible benefits from digital services in daily life, it is usually necessary to link both technological and non technological innovations in a meaningful way.
The EU has adopted the Digital Decade framework and a related policy program in 2020. With this program, the EU is pursuing a human-centric, sustainable vision for digital society to empower citizens and businesses. The aim of the Digital Decade is to ensure all aspects of technology and innovation work for people. Better connected rural areas is also a key target of the Long Term Vision for Rural Areas (LTVRA).
To get inspiration, check out the approach and smart ideas of two of the lighthouse communities:
Ovenhausen: Like many other villages, Ovenhausen is affected by the general trend of an ageing population. Moreover, the village is in danger of losing its attractiveness as a place to live due to the withdrawal of basic services from rural areas. In addition to strengthening social interaction in the sense of a “caring community” through initiatives such as the “social village café”, the general trend towards digitalisation is be used to increase the quality of life in Ovenhausen. To this end, a two-pronged objective is being pursued. On the one hand, the digital competence of the residents is to be increased so that everybody can make meaningful use of a rapidly developing online world. It is assumed that developments such as online banking and online shopping have already changed the everyday lives of many people and will continue to do so in the future. On the other hand, digital technologies are also to be used for creating digital services tailored to the village. If you would like you can read more about the village through the geomapping tool.
Lormes: Lormes has at an early stage seen digital transformation as an opportunity for local development. Already in 2003, an initiative was launched to promote digital inclusion by means of capacity building measures in the local community. Somewhat later, a rural digital hub was set up consisting of eight offices that were equipped with high-speed internet connections . Over the years, the digital hub developed into a vibrant local ecosystem facilitating the emergence of digital projects for the private and public sectors. After a trial period, the installation of a local fibre optic network began in 2018 to provide high-speed internet access to all residents and local businesses. As the village is located in a sparsely populated area, network roll out was initiated by a public initiative (RIP). Based on the network infrastructure operated on behalf of the local authority, commercial operators offer high-speed service packages to individuals and businesses. Today, almost 2000 premises are passed by the local fibre optic network. If you would like, you can read more about the village through the geomapping tool.