Modernisation and structural problems are some of the biggest challenges for rural areas across Europe, along with shrinking demographics, urban migration or digital transformation. Smart villages, an increasingly popular concept among EU members, are set to counter all those negative trends.
The main idea behind the concept is to encourage people to take initiative and find solutions in order to adapt to ongoing changes. This includes support for various forms of local cooperation or the use of digital technologies.
“In short, smart village is mainly about people and for people. It is a return to the partially lost roots in the countryside, to common sense, which our society is lacking,” noted Miloslav Oliva, chairman of the Regional Association of the National Network of Local Action Groups of the Czech Republic.
“The data from the other OECD countries shows that the use of modern technologies and new approaches, including so-called social innovations, is needed in rural areas to ensure basic infrastructure and a comparable quality of life for local people,” said Radim Sršeň, a vice-president of the Association of Local Authorities in the Czech Republic.
He thinks that the projects already implemented in other developed countries are a great inspiration for how to reverse the trend of migration from rural areas to cities and of the ageing local population.
“South Korea is a great example where the rural population has been growing equally in all the regions in absolute and relative numbers for already 10 years.”
According to Sršeň, the development of smart village has been quite dynamic in Czech regions. “If I were to compare with other member states, I would say the Czech Republic even has the potential to become a leader in this area,” said Sršeň.
Energy-efficient buildings, precision agriculture and drones against bark beetles
Oliva said that there are several Czech municipalities where systemic development has been based on adopting several features of smart village strategy – those regarding public lights, remote control and regulation of water consumption, or usage of various devices to improve the energy efficiency of buildings.
“[A larger variety of examples] can be found in farms where smart solutions successfully replaced the lack of human labour, for example in livestock or in so-called precision farming,” Oliva explained. Such modern agriculture, he believes, could keep the younger generation in the countryside.
“Smart village projects are also useful in targeting bark beetle problems in our forests. Drones are helpful with identification of early tree infestations which results in prompt action that increases a chance to prevent any future disaster,” the chairman added.
Additionally, he said, the smart village policy is a long time project that is not only about the use of modern technology. “The main pillar is still people, their creativity and willingness to actively participate in the development of their region,” concluded Sršeň.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]