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AEIDL hosts EU-wide debate on Sustainable digitalisation in rural areas and agriculture 

Apr 22, 2024 | News

On 16 April AEIDL hosted the first CODECS science-policy interface meeting, bringing together 85 experts from EU institutions, research communities, policymakers, and civil society organisations from all across Europe and several non-EU countries. The meeting served as a platform for discussions and knowledge exchange on rural digitalisation. 

Serafin Pazos-Vidal, Senior Expert in Rural and Territorial Development at AEIDL, opened the online meeting, introducing the overarching roles of the CODECS project and the role of AEIDL in fostering science-to-policy debates such as this one.

Gianluca Brunori, full professor of Food Policy at the University of Pisa and CODECS Coordinator, set the stage with an insightful opening speech. He underscored the considerable journey ahead to realise a fully functional digital agriculture and rural landscape. His presentation emphasised the multifaceted nature of digital transformation, stressing the necessity of addressing social, technical, and institutional components in order to uptake digital solutions. 

The inaugural session, titled “Digital Transformation of Rural Areas: Perspective from Science and Policy,” featured presentations from policy actors and researchers in the field. 

Stefan Muench and Kathrine Jensen from the Joint Research Centre outlined key findings from their foresight study Towards a green and digital future, presenting essential factors for the seamless integration of digital innovation with environmental sustainability imperatives. Francesco Iadecola from the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI) provided a comprehensive overview of research and innovation endeavours driving digitalisation in European rural areas, emphasising the pivotal role of data and digital technologies in fostering environmental and socio-economic sustainability. Eleni Toli, a research associate at the Athena Research Center, contributed valuable scientific insights by presenting the Twin Skills from the Twin Transition report. Advocating for a systemic approach to digitalisation in rural areas and agriculture, she underscored the importance of holistic perspectives that address underlying issues and contextualise challenges within broader socio-economic frameworks. 

The following session spotlighted practical insights and examples from EU projects leveraging a multi-actor approach to digitalisation. Matteo Gerosa, from Fondazione Bruno Kessler and SMART ERA Coordinator, showcased how innovative solutions are crafted through collaborative efforts across diverse stakeholders. By embracing a multi-dimensional perspective – encompassing technological, social, and economic facets – these initiatives aim to generate contextually relevant and sustainable innovation solutions tailored to rural life. 

The latter part of the session featured a Science and Policy workshop, where participants engaged in discussions. On the one hand, the “Multi-Actor Approach for transformative digital solutions” group (facilitated by Emīls Ķīlis from the Baltic Studies Centre), participants underscored the diverse nature of rural areas and stressed the necessity of addressing this diversity while maintaining continuity with past efforts. Additionally, participants emphasised the importance of setting realistic expectations to ensure the practical applicability of solutions in rural contexts. 

On the other hand, the second group on “AKIS as a Driver of Digital and Sustainable Transformation” (facilitated by María Alonso-Roldán from the University of Cordoba), acknowledged that while digital technologies can contribute to an effective AKIS, they might not always be the primary driver. However, they emphasised the pivotal role of digitalisation in facilitating the twin transition toward sustainability and underscored the significance of bottom-up approaches, advocating for the implementation of technologies that are easily adoptable by diverse actors within the agricultural ecosystem. 

Finally, Merveille Ntabuhashe, CODECS Project Manager at AEIDL, closed the meeting by reminding participants to join CODECS Knowledge Accelerator, a network dedicated to promoting knowledge co-creation and enabling stakeholder collaboration. 

In conclusion, the first CODECS science-policy interface meeting provided a platform for interdisciplinary dialogue and collaborative action towards sustainable digitalisation in rural areas. Embracing diverse perspectives and fostering partnerships will be paramount in realising the transformative potential of digital innovation for rural communities and agriculture across Europe. 

Want to learn more? 

Check out the recording and presentations here.

Stay tuned for the highlight’s report.