On 15 and 16 June, the European Commission organised the Rural Pact Conference in Brussels, Belgium. The event brought together EU, national, and regional policy-makers alongside local authorities, social and economic stakeholders in a participatory event that reflected the rural vision’s ambition and bottom-up character.

It sought to engage participants in designing the governance of the Rural Pact and gather commitments for the achievement of the long-term vision for the EU’s rural areas.

Digitalisation is a corner stone of EU’s Long-Term Vision for Rural Areas and it is reflected across all its elements, including the Rural Pact. Throughout the conference, digitalisation, digital transition and digital skills were highlighted as key for advancing rural development and rural communities. A dedicated session was organised during the conference on 16 June, highlighting the new opportunities that can transform rural areas. The session focused on improving connectivity, including 5G communities and new broadband state aid guidelines alongside practical examples on how these can be used in various domains like e-health.

Mar Delgado of University of Cordoba and partners of DESIRA was in charge of reporting back in plenary the key messages of the session. It was highlighted that digitalisation can be a chance for rural areas. Digital connection should now be regarded as basic infrastructure to develop rural areas, their economic potential and offer the needed services. There is a clear need for an inclusive and participatory approach to rural areas, involving all actors and people, to respond to the realities on the ground. Some ideas would be to create dedicated training programmes for rural digital champions; or develop local e-centres to boost up-skilling and digital literacy. It is now up to everybody to do their part in making the best out of the digital transformation without leaving anyone behind.

All presentations, pictures and recordings are available on the Rural Pact Conference webpage.