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32.2 Digital transformations in rural areas

Tuesday, June 27, 2023
15:45 - 17:15


Dr. Fikri Zul Fahmi
Associate Professor
Bandung Institute of Technology

Centring digitalization in the debate on rural transformation in the Global South


This paper aims to incorporate the issue of rural digitalisation into the debate on rural transformation particularly in the context of the Global South. There is a large body of knowledge regarding rural transformation in this context. It has been shown that the penetration of mass media and other sources of knowledge have stimulated dynamic changes in rural areas. Nevertheless, studies on rural digitalization in the Global South are mostly descriptive and empirical, yet relatively scarce as compared to the Global North. Along with the increasing trend of digitalisation in the Global South, it is essential to revisit how it means to rural transformation in this realm. A (post-) modernist perspective is used as it can reflect how rural digitalisation as ‘a macro-strategy for economic transformation’ (Staab, 2017), as well as modernisation, fit with diverse socio-cultural contexts beyond the Global North.
In general, rural areas in the Global South have lower levels of digital technology and use as well as digital literacy in skills as compared to the Global North. In some contexts digital technology adoption is rejected as it is considered inappropriate with local socio-cultural values. However, some ‘winners’ appear and prove that digitalization brings about new changes, thereby depicting a new progress in rural transformation in this context. It remains individual decisions that determine how digital technology is being utilised in livelihood activities. As such, digitalisation might not rapidly stimulate transformation, but it clearly strengthens ‘hybridity’ as seen from agricultural patterns and rural-urban transitions.
Medina Savira
Phd Student
University of Groningen

Entrepreneurial traditions and digital adoption: Evidence from two cases in Bali, Indonesia


Rural areas worldwide face all kinds of transformations, which impact rural economies and communities. Professionalization and innovation in rural entrepreneurship have been suggested as adaptation strategies for agricultural and non-agricultural sectors in the Global South. Professionalization and innovation in rural entrepreneurship are also influenced by the rapid development of digitalization. Using the neo-endogenous development framework, we consider digital technology as an exogenous resource for enhancing connectivity between local actors and external resources, including knowledge and innovation. The rapid development of digital technology in rural areas complements local actions to empower the community and harness local resources. We conducted interviews in two entrepreneurial communities on Bali, Indonesia: The Kamasan community that produces traditional cultural products, and the Kintamani community that produces coffee. Our findings show that the type of entrepreneurial product and economic sector affect how rural entrepreneurs adopt digital technology. Both economic activity and the related cultural traditions seem to be guiding factors that help entrepreneurs to decide how they can use digital technologies in a meaningful way. Lastly, we propose that future research into digitalization in rural economies in the Global South should work from a diversified perspective, recognizing the differences between – and within – rural communities.
Dr. Tobias Mettenberger
Thünen Institute of Rural Studies

A better socio-digital reality in progress? Opportunities and challenges for rural telemedicine


Particular potential of telemedical solutions is seen in the supply of peripheral rural regions. Where distances for general practitioners and patients are long, specialist doctors are lacking and the service spectrum of smaller hospitals is limited, digital communication seems particularly effective. Similarly, digital transformation in such remote areas is associated with specific difficulties e.g. in view of financial, personnel and infrastructural resource bottlenecks. Accordingly, potential-orientated political and medial narratives must be critically questioned and specified by practical insights.

Initial findings of my four-year research provide starting points for that. In its first phase, the project landscape of rural telemedicine in Germany was reconstructed and categorised with regard to the dominant objectives, technical solutions, fields of application and actors involved. In addition, 15 qualitative interviews were conducted with experts from healthcare science and practice.

My results show that the potential of telemedical solutions is seen primarily in the supplementation of services that can still only be provided in person and thereby in the creation of new socio-digital realities: e.g. by combining doctors’ tele-consultation with the delegation of medical tasks to assistants who are present on site, or by enabling digital presence of doctors during emergency interventions. Obstacles are explained by technology-driven implementation processes and funding practices. In many cases, the service providers at the regional level are not able to recognise any immediate added value emerging from digital transformation options. Hence, sustainable and effective solutions require more detailed analysis, focusing the needs and capabilities of doctors, nurses and patients.
Dr. Talis Tisenkopfs
Senior Researcher
Baltic Studies Centre

Stakeholder perception of the data economy of a food system


Digitalisation of agriculture and food production accelerates collection, exchange, and use of data across the whole value chain. The ‘traditional’ activities and relationships in food system are being virtualised and transformed into digital twins based on data. The food system is increasingly functioning as a mixture production and data exchange. The stakeholders, from farmers and input providers to retailers and consumers, get involved in data flows. They are involved in collecting, exchanging, analysing, storing and using data, taking on different roles: the data platform providers, data entrepreneurs, data marketplace, data end users. Various kinds of stakeholders participate in, and contribute to, the making of a data economy of a food system. Data centred innovations in shared data spaces embeds in food system. However, the data economy of a food system is not an end in itself, it is a means to transform food systems towards greater sustainability.
In the paper we analyse the stakeholders’ perceptions, experiences, interests, needs and influence with regards to a data economy for food systems. Building on the network of the Horizon Europe project Data4Food2030 we explore how stakeholders engage in data economy for food systems, in what ways are they involved in the data flow and what is their role in it? What economic, social, technological, legal, ethical and environmental issues and solutions emerge? The paper is based on 20 qualitative interviews and four multi-actor focus groups carried out by involving various of food system and data economy stakeholders from different European countries.

Session host

Gianluca Brunori
University of Pisa

Olivier Ejderyan
Group Leader
FiBL - Research Institute Of Organic Agriculture

Mikelis Grivins
Senior Researcher
Baltic Studies Centre

Leanne Townsend
Senior Social Scientist
James Hutton Institute



Contact for questions about abstracts or registration: groningen@congressbydesign.com 

Contact for questions about the content of the programme: ruralgeo2023@rug.nl