Smart villages: the evolution of rural areas
The big cities are experiencing a great change thanks to technology, improving every year. But what about the villages and rural areas? In many cases, these areas are affected by population and lack of opportunities.
However, several projects in some countries in Europe are following a digital transformation strategy to change this situation.
Throughout Europe, the proposal “Smart and competitive rural areas” was encouraged within the framework of the European Rural Development Network. The goal is to improve the quality of life of the inhabitants of these areas through digital transformation and ICT tools, improving their services, health, education and transportation.
The European challenge
The European Union organized a meeting with more than 340 stakeholders in Cork (Ireland) to approach this issue. The goal was to find solutions for “a better life in rural areas”, as his motto said. Therefore, it is essential to bridge the digital divide that exists between rural areas and urban centers.
The conclusions reached the need to promote in these regions new jobs, business models such as online services, in addition to improving the digitalization of existing companies and supporting their integration with urban business, to create a favorable environment for entrepreneurship. Besides this, other ideas were proposed as intelligent transport solutions.
“There is a need for promoting new jobs in rural areas and supporting their integration with urban business “.
That is why the concept of Smart Villages was born, which has begun to become very popular within the framework of EU policies. It is an emerging trend that aims for rural areas to take full advantage of their resources and assets to create new growth opportunities, using the means available for it.
The final consequence is an improvement in the quality of life of the inhabitants since they can access better public services, have new opportunities for them and the next generations and contribute with the value of their products and services within a global market.
The concept Smart Villages is not based on a single solution, but on studying the needs of each area to incorporate a custom strategy according to the case.
To build a smart village, there are necessary some actions such as literacy in digital skills, a digitalized health system, the promotion and improvement of local products, such as agri-food projects, tourism or cultural activities, with technological solutions incorporated.
Starting the digital transformation
In Germany, strategies have been developed to digitize rural areas, specifically in the Ostwestfalen-Lippe region. Through the ‘Smart Countryside Project’ they are reinventing several areas to get a better life for the inhabitants. This is made possible by the connection of rural areas, improving basic infrastructure, creating digital skills for education or promoting intelligent digital services.
In this region, several projects can be carried out to incorporate technology, such as “smart town halls”, which consists of automated processes as well as a “smart house”. We also had great success in the “education corners”, where 150 experts teach digital lessons to residents, with classes focused on practical topics, such as data security or education 4.0.
“Several projects in Germany have created smart town halls in villages and rural areas”.
Spain has also pioneered the Intelligent Rural Territory project, led by Telefónica, which is based on implementing IoT technology in rural areas. It consists of installing sensors that collect data from elements such as the electrical panels of the town or the containers, which then pass to a software platform to be analyzed. Also, a big data application that offers information to municipalities to monitor the proper functioning of services.
In this way, the garbage truck can know when it is necessary to collect the containers because they are full, which saves transportation costs; or an intelligent lighting system that raises light levels by detecting human presence, which decreases spending.
They also began to apply changes in transport systems, with information on which routes are most traveled according to the time of year, services can be increased in some lines and reduced in others. In this manner, transport can be adapted to meet the expectations of the inhabitants.
The Spanish government also developed the National Plan of Smart Territories 2017-2020, to boost technology development in rural areas and provide people with basic communications infrastructure. The pilot projects were based on 5G technology.
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