The city of Kielce has welcomed a new edition of the European Rural Parliament (ERP) between the 12-15 September. The conference gathers more than 400 rural stakeholders from 39 Members States, including European Commission representatives, civil society organisation, businesses, public authorities. Also, it welcomes delegations from Ukraine and Armenia.

Enrique Nieto (AEIDL) has moderated a workshop that explores how can digitalisation and technologies help rural communities to thrive. Enrique introduced the DESIRA project and elaborated on the key messages emerging from it.

The workshop discussions outlined important considerations to take into account in the digital transformation of rural areas. In particular, it was highlighted that digitalisation is a complex process which is not possible to achieve just with the participation of local stakeholders. There is a need to support these communities in accessing knowledge and expertise that can guide them in the identification and design of the technological solutions needed to respond to their challenges.

Secondly, the grouping pointed out that there is a general and erroneous consensus that digitalisation is positive in nature, as it can also have negative impacts on the environment in which it is applied. These negative impacts need to be considered when planning the digitalisation of rural areas, such as the loss of jobs through enhanced efficiency in processes.

Finally, participants highlighted the need to understand better the sustainability of digitalisation and the technologies. There is a concern that by deploying digital technologies, Europe might be supporting the exploitation of natural resources in third countries, conflicts to get the material needed to build technologies (e.g. for batteries), support authoritarian regimes, child labour, etc. Also, participants raised the point about the potential of the technologies used to enter into the “circular” circuit as to be reused. Stakeholder claimed the need for scientific knowledge in this crucial topic to ensure digitalisation is sustainable in the long run.

Keep engaged with all the activities of the European Rural Parliament on their website, and find the full agenda and outcomes of the 2022 Conferece here.