On 19 January 2023, DESIRA facilitated a foresight exercise on rural digitalisation in collaboration with the Joint Research Centre and DG AGRI. The purpose was to explore how digitalisation can help shape rural areas’ responses to future challenges to support policymakers in considering long-term perspectives. It was organised back-to-back with the DESIRA (Digitisation: Economic and Social Impacts in Rural Areas) Horizon 2020 project. This is the last major event of this project before the DESIRA final conference in April 26 and 27 in Brussels.
The 30 participants (DESIRA and SHERPA partners, European Commission and Joint Research Centre officials as well as six rural digitalisation experts that came specifically for this exercise from all over Europe) were divided into seven groups where they considered various scenarios about territories, citizens and the use of digital technologies in 2040. They explored the roles of digitalisation in the context of this imagined future and how digitalisation can help address the challenges and what the pitfalls are for the various territories they considered.
This collective imagining between researchers, stakeholders, experts and officials led to consider what would be the suitable digital strategy for a specific rural area under a future scenario based on resilience and another based on thriving communities. A key finding was the disruptive nature of digital, which acts both as a catalyser of new dynamics in rural communities helping them to access better services and improving social cohesion as well generating novel ways of individuals and connectivity with other areas.
The EU Joint Research Centre, which provided the methodology for carrying out this event will provide a report outlining the main highlights across the various scenarios for future digitalisation that were considered in Ghent.