Topic: Promoting Adaptive Capacity in the Digitization Process of Rural Areas: The DESIRA Methodology
Keywords: digitisation, innovation, participatory process.
In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, digitisation is identified as a specific goal, but it is also a pivotal tool for achieving other targets of the Agenda. Through processing of a variety of data from different sensors and devices, digitisation in rural areas, agricultural and foresty sectors promises positive impacts on production effiency, preservation of the environment and issues that rural communities are facing (such as in relation to mobility, access to market, health and social services, etc.).
New digital technologies are game changers in the sense that they contribute to reconfiguring of social practices (e.g. consumption, business models, service provision, etc.) generating both opportunites and threats in rural contexts and for rural stakeholders. Social risks related to what is known as ‘digital traps’ (such as digital divides, the design of ICT solutions and system complexity) can lead to unintended negative consequences, which may go against the Agenda’s purposes. In order to minimise digitisation social costs, socio-political systems can anticipate them and improve their adaptive capacity to technological novelties. To do so, it seems necessary to develop a new conceptual framework that takes into account the mutal influence between social organisations and ICT development.
In this regard, the project DESIRA, funded by the European programme RUR-02-2018, aims to promote an innovative strategy to face digitisation challenges building a knowledge and methodological base to assess socio-economic impact of ICT-related innovations. Based on the Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) principles, DESIRA intends to develop a conceptual and analytical frame to understand the implications of digitisation, that will detect how digital game changers connect (and change) data, things, people, plants and animals into a hybrid system that can be named a Socio-Cyber-Physical System. Involving 25 partners across 16 European countries, the DESIRA consortium will mobilise a wide network of actors (i.e. public authorities, citizens groups, farmers, academia, etc.) in a participatory research project. Through 20 Living Labs and one EU-level Rural Digital Forum, the networks will help develop indicators for impact assessment, describefuture digitisation trends and scenarios and contribute to policy development across the EU. Based on the outlined scenarios, five ‘use cases’ will be developped to analyse plausible potential future development and recomendations. Also, two ‘showcase technologies’, with high potential impact, will be prototyped in open source to increase their reusability and impact. An ethical code for digitisation will also be developed in the project, which should help rural stakeholders identify technological solutions coherent with their social responsibility profile.
In this contribution, the method adopted in DESIRA will be reported as an innovative process to face challenges and opportunities of digitisation.