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).

Lighthouse communities

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.

What is happening in the cluster?

How to get involved?

4 Apr 2023
Launch of the call
Call for the participation of rural communities

Call for the participation of rural communities in the Smart Rural 27 Knowledge Cluster was sent out on the topic of ‘Improving services through digitalisation’ to more than 250 rural communities including Smart Rural 21 selected and Come Along villages, and rural communities included in the SR27 geomapping database. 

26 Apr 2023
1st online meeting
Introductory meeting of the knowledge cluster

First online meeting was held was held to introduce to the members the Smart Rural 27 project framework, the purpose of the European Smart Villages Pilot Observatory and the role of knowledge cluster within the project. The lighthouse communities Lormes (France) and Ovenhausen (Germany) presented their examples to the audience.  You can read the summary report of the event here.

27 Jun 2023
2nd online meeting
Smart Village Café on key rural challenges to be addressed

The second online meeting focused on the key local/ rural challenges that can be addressed through digitalisation, presented through specific cases.

We have discussed how to get from an initial idea to a fully-up-and-running eService based on the methodology used by partner company empirica (Germany). You can read the summary report of the session here.

9 Nov 2023
Working with communities
Working with communities on eServices

Cluster members are encouraged to start (or continue) the process of planning specific eServices (including the development of vision statement and ambition focusing). Online meeting led by empirica was held on the 9th of November to communities. Interested communities will be directly supported by the project, and their experiences will be shared with the wider cluster membership. You can read the meeting report here.

Nov 2023 - Feb 2024
Technical support
Ongoing technical support to interested comunities

Cluster members who started planning of eServices will be directly supported in their efforts - Note this activity is subject to interest from cluster members!. Experience from the process of planning specific eServices will be shared and discussed with others.

Apr 2023
Conluding cluster work


The outcomes of the work of the cluster will be presented and discussed with the wider interested audience. Lessons will be drawn for future actions.

Call for the participation of rural communities on the topic of Improving services through digitalisation

You can express your interest to get involved in the Knowledge Cluster on Digital services for rural communities by 16/4/2023 through registration link or please contact us through