On 11 April, the European Commission launched an EU action called ‘Smart Villages’. This action is about revitalising rural communities and making them more attractive and sustainable. In the words of Slovenian SLS lawmaker and Member of European Parliament Franc Bogovic (EPP): “We speak about ‘smart cities’, but we don’t speak enough about ‘smart villages. With modern technologies and new concepts, we want to reinvigorate rural areas, reverse the trend of depopulation and protect people against rural poverty”.
Speaking at the event, Phil Hogan, EU Agricultural Commissioner, said that Smart Villages are “…about future-proofing our rural and agricultural communities”. In addition, Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu indicated that rural towns are often hit the hardest by economic and social change. The Commission is currently receiving offers for the open tender pilot project: smart eco-social villages.
An interesting dynamic of agricultural digitisation can be seen in its effect on getting more young farmers. The European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA) noted that digitisation of EU farming and rural areas will be a good motivation for young people to return to the farm and approach it as a ‘real business’”.
Alan Jagoe, President of CEJA, commented, “If we don’t run it as a business if we don’t make a profit, we won’t be farming. Technology is going to make this more appealing to a whole new generation of farmers that never even considered farming before, or considered us but didn’t think that it was, you know, a sexy career choice”.
However, the CEJA president also warns about a potential digital divide: “in some countries there are as many farmers aged over the age of 80 as there are under 35. So you can imagine these guys trying to operate a mobile phone, trying to operate the latest new technology of a tractor or a machine—they just can’t do it, and they will actually be left behind”.