digital transformation dRural economic growth rural rural areas rural communities smart communities − 01 Jun 2021
Interview with dRural project coordinator Jorge Gonzalez Olalla from Ticbiomed, Spain
Jorge Gonzalez Olalla is the director of Ticbiomed in Spain, as well as coordinator of the dRural project. In this interview he shares an overview of dRural goals and actions.
How would you describe the economy and population of rural areas? What are the main challenges?
JGO: Rural areas in Europe have an older population than in towns. In addition, they offer fewer job opportunities, making it more difficult to recruit young people and attract talent. Against this backdrop is the poor access to healthcare and education. On top of that, internet connections are poorer than in urban areas.
dRural’s aim is to help tackle these challenges by empowering rural populations with a digital marketplace of services that really fits their needs and inspires them. It is about strengthening rural areas, turning them into smart and sustainable communities with better quality of life.
Why is digitalisation at the top of the EU’s agenda?
JGO: dRural is aligned with the EU’s agenda on boosting smart communities and promoting digital transformation in rural areas.
Our goal is to improve the economic conditions in rural areas, while making it easier for the inhabitants to access the services they need and want. By putting people and services closer together, we expect to stimulate job creation. On the other side of the coin, people’s quality of life should improve as they will be able to access services more easily than before.
Please describe (for dummies) the digital solution you’re developing under the project and the services offered.
JGO: dRural will create an online space where services can be offered to rural inhabitants. Physiotherapists, teachers, drivers, etc will be able to promote their services. Local councils and healthcare providers, among others, will also be able to offer their services.
The solution will stand out for two reasons: it will be easy for both service users and providers to find each other, and the solution considers bandwidth availability, digital literacy and similar issues that are often faced in rural areas.
How will the solution be co-created with users?
JGO: I particularly like this question because this is what dRural is about: co-creation! Service providers and their expected users and customers will actively participate in the design by joining a local community, called dRural ecosystem, so that their needs and expectations can be truly fulfilled.
In addition, the project has funding to support those interested in offering services through the platform, both as entrepreneurs or as established organizations.
Where will you test the platform?
JGO: Initially we will co-create and develop the solution in four regions: Extremadura (Spain), Jämtland Härjedalen (Sweden), Dubrovnik-Neretva County (Croatia) and Gelderland Midden (the Netherlands). In each of these regions, the marketplace will be adapted and presented in the local language. We are talking about very different regions, in different latitudes, with different cultural, social and economic realities. The only thing they have in common is that they are predominantly rural. All of this will be taken into account while co-creating and developing the solution.
We have funding to expand the solution to other regions in Europe. The plan is to launch a call in 2022 so stay tuned and follow us on our channels to learn more about the project and explore collaboration opportunities.