October 14, 2021

Rural Connectivity: Discussing the Future for Remote Areas

On 13 October 2021, a high-level discussion took place online on the subject of the long term vision for remote areas. Organised by EU40, the European Parliament’s RUMRA & Smart Villages Intergroup, and REInA (Rural European Innovation Area), powered by StartUp Olè.

This is part 2 (of 2) of the “Building the Future for Remote Areas” series.  Part 1 took place place on July 6th. This session was also an official side event of the 19th annual European Week of Regions and Cities.

As a follow-up to the first virtual event held with European Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, organised to discuss the results of the European Commission Long Term Vision for Rural Areas, this second part was aimed at giving a closer look at connectivity of remote areas as a crucial tool for the development and well-being of the citizens of Europe.

Isidro Laso Ballesteros, Senior Member of the Cabinet of European Commissioner Mariya Gabriel, spoke about the European Commission’s Rural Vision, which is only the first step in innovating rural areas. The key first action of the Smart Villages Forum is to use cohesion funds which will bring people together, not to mention use them to support innovation and enable those regions in remote areas.

Maria da Graça Carvalho, Member of the European Parliament (EPP), highlighted the divide between urban and rural areas. Offering the political perspective, Carvalho mentions that the growing gap impacts voters and decision-making processes. Unless connectivity is monitored more and the gap is closed, cohesion will no longer be maintained.

 

Cllr. Enda Stenson, Rapporteur for the Revitalisation of rural areas through Smart Villages, European Committee of the Regions, mentioned how he had to travel to another part of the Irish region in order to have a decent connection. With this in mind, he pointed out that rural areas have been neglected – and that must be changed. Both national and European governments must streamline a proper rural agenda. Otherwise, these areas will soon be forgotten – and that cannot happen.

Sandra Isabel Novo, Founder & CEO, Market Sostenibles Startup, gave the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) perspective. SMEs need market access, and unless they embrace digital practices, these will be left behind. There is thus a need to adapt technologies, by also exploring the options with deep-tech and artificial intelligence. These tools can be used to the particular needs of businesses.

Reinald Krüger, Group Policy & Public Affairs Director, Vodafone, also reiterated the role of industry. Businesses must play their part too – not just authorities. Businesses must also take on the responsibility of educating what is possible and achievable. Connectivity can indeed be transformational – it is not only about connecting people, but actually enabling industries to bring jobs to people.

Watch the full recording below!