What smart villages need to know?

Rural areas in Europe are undergoing rapid change. On the one hand, persistent challenges such as poor infrastructure, low-quality rural services and youth emigration continue to put pressure on many rural communities and are rapidly accelerating their decline. On the other hand, there are also exciting new opportunities for rural people and rural businesses arising from what have been called the ‘key drivers of rural change in the 21st century’, drivers of change that include a range of of changing social values ​​and consumer preferences, the impact of digital technologies, the imperative to develop circular and low-carbon economies, the emerging bio-economy and so on.

In short, Smart Villages can be understood as “rural communities that refuse to wait for change to happen”. Such communities are made up of rural people who take the initiative to mobilize and explore practical solutions to the day-to-day challenges they face, as well as take advantage of new opportunities to improve their quality of life and standard of living. live. And there are of course thousands of rural communities across the EU doing this in different ways.

The problem is, of course, that smart villages require smart national/regional authorities to support them – and in particular to program and strategically target the EU funds that are made available. And here we start to get impatient, where we already start to feel the potential of a lost opportunity in Romania.

And it would be a great loss, because there is no doubt that this concept of “Smart Village” is both relevant and appropriate to the Romanian rural context. It is clear, for example, from the recent work of Romania’s National Rural Network that some inspiring examples of smart villages already exist in Romania, where “traditional and new networks and services are enhanced through digital technologies, telecommunications, innovations and better use of knowledge”. It is also likely that many other inspiring examples remain to be identified.

These existing examples are not the result of a coordinated or coherent effort, but result from numerous ad hoc factors, including the vision and personal commitment of local community leaders; various NGO initiatives focused on issues ranging from poverty alleviation to cultural heritage; innovative use of rural development funds and other funds; various other development initiatives funded with bilateral/multilateral assistance over the past 25-30 years.

The launch of the Smart Village concept in Romania could therefore be considered an idea whose time has finally arrived.