Waves of economic growth in Dubrovnik-Neretva

economic growth

News − 14 May 2024

The Croatian rural region of Dubrovnik-Neretva is flourishing thanks to the dRural platform. While old citizen have an easier life, young people can find new job opportunities and don't feel forced to leave.

Rural regions all over Europe experience depopulation and subsequent economic regression, but economic growth is still possible.

According to Eurostat, as of January 1, 2021, only 21% of the EU population resided in rural areas. Between 2015 and 2020, the population in predominantly rural regions decreased by an average of 0.1% annually. Consequently, local markets shrank and the economy ailed.

However, the Croatian region of Dubrovnik-Neretva is riding waves of economic growth. Here, the dRural digital platform, introduced especially to address the needs of the elderly, was successfully implemented starting from healthcare services. Now, the marketplace hosts 128 webshops and a total of 150 different services in various sectors, including tourism and agriculture. Thanks to dRural, many businesses are harnessing the opportunity to showcase their offer. Which creates more business opportunities, increases incomes, and creates new job positions, making the region more attractive for young people. Education is being fostered too, as the youths are encouraged to improve their digital skills.

Economic growth: the win-win of the digital revolution

In the region of Dubrovnik-Neretva, adapting to changes seems particularly hard for inhabitants. The elderly get hardly used to innovations, either because of difficulties in understanding them or because of their tight bond with traditions. In Croatia, old customs are still cherished, and the numerous elderly – especially those living in rural areas – are quite distant from modern technologies. But new generations are coming into play to support old people with digital services, creating a virtuous circle.

For old inhabitants, the dRural platform is a way to reduce waiting lists for medical appointments and waiting time in waiting rooms.  However, they wouldn’t be able to use the digital marketplace without the help of younger inhabitants. Through the platform, senior citizens who have no one to help them can also take advantage of transport and delivery services.

“Our goal is that young people introduce older citizens to our project activities so that they accept changes and have an easier life” stated Niko Bojbaša, representing the Croatian pilot of the dRural project. In other words, dRural is making life easier for everyone: the elderly can have a better quality of life, and the youths are encouraged to stay in a region where they can feel valorised and find job opportunities in line with their ambitions and skills.

What’s next?

Although the platform was launched to support the elderly, now other sectors such as agriculture and tourism are being boosted and keep growing. The dRural marketplace is slowly modernising life in the rural region of Dubrovnik-Neretva and fostering its economic growth. Meetings, articles, and fairs are now being harnessed by the pilot leaders to spread the platform and share its results. The future of Croatian rural areas looks increasingly prosperous.

Picture Austin Distel on Unsplash

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