Strengthening digital skills of rural people to benefit from the digital era is a Good Practice webinar of the Rural Pact Support Office, which will take place on June 8 from 9 to 13 (Brussels time).
While there are examples of rural areas already exploiting the potential of digitalisation, there is still a persisting digital divide in Europe between rural, peri-urban and urban areas in terms of digital connectivity, skills and capacities for technological development. The efforts in providing quality digital infrastructure in rural areas need to be complemented with enhanced capacities for rural actors to maximise its use. However, the lack of digital skills in many rural areas, where less than half of the households in sparsely populated areas have at least basic digital skills, only 20% have above digital skills and 2.5% are Information and Communication Technology (ICT) specialists (rural in digital index), mirrors socio-economic inequalities between these areas and urban areas.
In March 2021, the European Commission presented a vision and avenues for Europe’s digital transformation by 2030. The Commission proposes a Digital Compass for the EU’s digital decade built around four cardinal points i) government, ii) skills, iii) infrastructure iv) businesses. For rural areas, the EU Long Term Vision (LTVRA) aims at rural areas ‘fully benefiting from digital innovation with equal access to emerging technologies, widespread digital literacy and opportunities to acquire more advanced skills’ (shared goals). Moreover, the vision aims to enable more ‘connected rural areas’ by 2040 through investments in infrastructure, technology development and skills enhancement activities grouped under the flagship ‘Rural digital futures’.
Digital skills development is also one of the strategic priorities of the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027, adopted in September 2020, which set the Commission’s long-term approach to digital transformation of education and training. As part of the 2023 European Year of Skills, the Commission will encourage a much stronger focus on opportunities and initiatives related to upskilling, reskilling and digital skills for all. This follows its structured dialogue with Member States on digital education in 2022, which will lead to the adoption of recommendations on the provision of digital skills and enabling factors for digital education in spring. These efforts aim to contribute to achieving the Digital Decade targets – 80% of Europeans with basic digital skills and 20 million information and communications technology (ICT) specialists by 2030.
The webinar is targeted at project implementers and developers of digital skills initiatives in rural areas targeting various stakeholder groups (youth, elderly and businesses) and potential project holders including local, regional and national private and public actors.