Source: ENRD, 2020

Smart Villages and Rural Digital Transformation is the latest Briefing developed by the European Network for Rural Development to assist Managing Authorities and rural stakeholders in designing and implementing Smart Villages initiatives in key domains.

The focus of this document is on promoting digital transformation in villages and rural areas. It builds on a previous brief produced by the ENRD Thematic Group on Smart Villages entitled ‘Smart Villages – how to ensure that digital strategies benefit rural communities’. The rationale behind both documents is that government institutions and stakeholders, at all levels, are putting in place a wide range of strategies to improve digital infrastructure, increase digital usage, enhance digital skills and inclusion, and promote digital innovation in rural areas. However, to optimise the benefits, these initiatives require to engage with and prioritise the needs and concerns of rural communities and stakeholders themselves.

Smart Villages Strategies can help overcome the digital gap by recognising the different starting points of rural areas and villages (following the concept of digital maturity) and co-designing digital pathways from the bottom-up while at the same time building bridges with the essential top-down strategies. The long-term aim of Smart Villages Strategies is not just to catch up with urban areas and bridge the digital divide, but also to build partnerships with cities and rural communities. This can encourage rural areas to progress through the various stages of a genuine digital transformation – from digital isolation to connection and to become digital players in their own right.