The Smart Villages concept is about improving economic performance and quality of life in rural areas, potentially via digital and other technologies. Smart village inhabitants gain access to knowledge, markets, social and cultural services, technologies and infrastructure that are usually only accessible to urban residents. In this video, Mario Milouchev, Director of rural development programmes 1 and pre-accession assistance in the Directorate General for Agriculture and Rural Development, explains the opportunities for rural areas, and highlights key EU projects connected to Smart Villages.

Evening scene of a town with people crossing a bridge. Title text overlay reads: "EU support for Smart Villages". Vertical banner to the left reads: "BCO Network".

This video is part of a series of interviews on broadband roll-out in Europe, produced for the European Network of Broadband Competence Offices (BCO Network).

The Smart Villages strategy involves “mobilising and coordinating a whole range of different policies, from the farming policy to the regional policy, to the policy for digitalisation, to transport, and bringing those together to take the hundreds of millions of people who live in rural areas into the modern age”, explains Paul Soto, team leader at the European Network for Rural Development (ENRD) Contact Point, in a separate interview.

The idea behind the Smart Villages strategy, Mr Soto continues, is that, although the countryside faces many challenges, in today's age, rural areas also offer something different and very valuable to the whole of European society”. The strategy is about making sure that people in villages have the skills, the connectivity, the access to services, and the possibility of jobs that urban citizens have access to.

"Smart Villages are not exclusively about digital services, but digital transformation can be an important element of rural development and the regeneration of rural areas", notes Jan Dröge, Director of the European Network of Broadband Competence Offices (BCO Network) Support Facility, in an article for the ENRD concerning the European Commission's Action Plan for Rural Broadband. An important ingredient in the realisation of Smart Villages is rural connectivity. A priority of the BCO Network is supporting rural broadband deployment, and greater collaboration between rural development networks and BCOs is needed. The European Gigabit Society objectives aim to ensure reliable, high-speed broadband access for all citizens by 2025, and the BCO Network works to support Member States and regions in reaching these objectives.

The EU's Smart Villages action plan, which aims to deliver the concept by 2020, includes many initiatives in rural development, regional policy, transport, energy, digital and research. Mr Milouchev highlights three projects from the action plan:

  • Eco-Social Villages concentrates on the characteristics of the villages and identifying good practices, with a particular focus on connectivity and digital solutions.
  • SMARTA, Smart Rural Transport Areas, concerns the interconnections between shared mobility and public transport in rural areas.
  • The pan-European network of Digital Innovation Hubs, which can be valuable for agriculture and rural areas, by using digital and other technologies to improve both performance and products.

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Smart Villages

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EU support for Smart Villages: