Digital transformation of rural areas

What exactly is digital transformation? Transformation is a process that takes some time, in which we undergo a certain change. However, digital transformation refers to a process that starts from the moment we start thinking about introducing digital technologies in all areas of business and life and lasts until the moment of their full integration. Digital transformation involves companies and individuals, and education is a key factor in digital transformation – it is not enough just to introduce digital technology into business.

Digital transformation, however, is a fundamental change in the way and organization of business using digital technologies and the application of innovative, modern, and new business processes and models to improve the effectiveness of the organization, and timely and faster adaptation in a business and economic environment that is constantly and rapidly changing.

Digitalization is one of the activities of digital transformation and implies the replacement of existing analog business solutions with digital ones, as a goal of introducing a digital way of working and doing business.

Digitalization, digital transformation, and modernization of communications, as drivers and catalysts for the development of rural areas, directly counters and responds to the basic problems of rural areas.

With the advent of digital technology, the public and private sectors around the world have fundamentally changed their business. Companies have suddenly changed the way they do business, communication and information exchange and interaction with each other. In the 2014-2019 parliamentary term, the European Union has recorded several initiatives in the areas of digitisation of industry and public services, investment in digital infrastructure and services, research programmes, cybersecurity, e-commerce, copyright, and data protection legislation. A 2017 survey shows that two-thirds of Europeans believe that digital technologies are having a positive impact on society, the economy and their own lives, and that digital technologies are increasingly decisively taking on a significant role in their daily lives. Of course, with innovative technologies come new challenges, and most respondents believe that the European Union, member states’ bodies and companies are obliged and responsible to act appropriately to deal with the consequences of using these technologies. Of course, such measures include activities that should minimize, or eliminate, the negative consequences of using such technologies.

The first funding programme intended exclusively to support digital transformation in the European Union, i.e. the proposal for the Digital Europe programme (for the period 2021-2027), sets as one of the objectives to increase support for digital transformation in the coming years.

Success in digitalization and transformation depends on many factors, but the most important and influential are:

  • Development strategy that should be developed in such a way as to set short, medium, and long-term objectives
  • A plan that is tailored to the needs and capabilities of the local environment, in accordance with regional, county, and national plans and strategies
  • The development of the strategy/plan must be measurable and regularly evaluated
  • Development and investment in digitalisation must not stop and must be continuous
  • Digitalisation must be comprehensive, and no one should be left out
  • Targeted and planned improvement of living and working conditions using modern digital technology solutions

For the most efficient, time-consuming, and economically acceptable implementation of successful digital transformation of smart villages, rural areas, and municipalities, it is necessary to provide conditions that affirm the positive tendencies of transformation:

  • Access to high-speed, broadband Internet connection, digital infrastructure
  • Mechanisms for involving local stakeholders to identify and be ready to accept digital needs and in creating digital solutions
  • Readiness and recognition of the managing authority
  • Access to knowledge bases, workspaces that can help develop local capacities
  • Availability of specialists, technical support, tools.

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