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Moritz Gallei, Ghent University, Moritz.Gallei@Ugent.be
Joost Dessein, Ghent University, Joost.Dessein@Ugent.be

Topic: The need for interdisciplinary research approaches in assessing and designing digitisation policy for European rural areas.

Keywords: Rural digitisation, research agenda, interdisciplinarity.


Digitisation presents a range of complex opportunities and challenges for European rural communities encompassing effects on social, environmental and economic outcomes. A thoroughly informed assessment and design of rural digitisation policy is crucial in order to enable rural areas to realize the benefits as well as to avert potential negative consequences of digitisation with regard to the resilience of rural areas. An interdisciplinary research agenda can contribute to such policy development as it facilitates the understanding of a complex and – de facto interdisciplinary – policy issue; however, it is also challenging as it requires solid expertise and a clear research framework that allows for a fruitful interaction between disciplines.

We propose to consider a well-informed, interdisciplinary research agenda integrating a diverse and complementary set of qualitative and quantitative research approaches: (1) a Pan-European econometric analysis of the socio economic effects of digitisation on European rural areas resulting in a bigger picture based on universal and measurable effects. However, in order to deal with the limitations of such econometric analysis, (2) community-based, place-specific approaches are a vital addition to the assessment of universal and measurable effects of rural digitisation policy on local communities. Finally, (3) a discourse analysis will explore potential biases in rural digitisation policy and further inform the understanding of the policy responsiveness to different stakeholder groups, e.g. local and non-local businesses, local and non-local policy makers, members of the rural community with different socioeconomic backgrounds etc. in the context of rural digitisation policy. What are the consequences of the current rural digitisation discourse on policy measures such as the accessibility of funding sources for different stakeholders with different socioeconomic background or the design of success measures in evaluation efforts?

This paper presents a timely research framework to deal with the impacts of digitisation in shaping the future development of rural regions, integrating a focus on quantitative and qualitative assessment as well as sociopolitical relations.

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