Because of long travel distances to amenities and work plus a sparse population, there is a more urgent need for innovative tech in rural areas than in cities. Despite this, digitalisation of society is way faster in cities than in the countryside. Why is that? Broadband. There is a lack of high-speed broadband in many parts of the countryside. Without access to broadband and 5G infrastructure, the rural population is at risk of being stuck in a digital time warp. Attitude. In some cases, there is a negative attitude to implementing digital techniques in the countryside. The argument is that not every rural citizen is fully digital, and therefore the level of digitalisation is adjusted to the least digital group. This group is often assumed to be the elderly, even though today’s 65+ people are actually extremely digital. Unless this attitude changes, the image will be cemented that the countryside is a part of the community where time has stopped. New green, digital wave. Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, our society has rapidly gone through a crash course in remote working and online techniques. For many of us, WFH has worked out well and some might consider continuing work remotely. A dream of leaving the city for a life in the countryside, can now, thanks to digital technique, come true. How will this affect the countryside? Will there be villages with schools that combine physical and digital learning environments? Unmanned grocery stores? Satellite offices and co-working facilities? Job hubs in the villages where you can book a desk, a meeting room, a webcast studio, and access to the gym. Smart, coordinated deliveries of our online purchases? Tech is fundamental for such societies. Tech ready rural municipalities. Are the rural municipalities ready for this? Are they prepared for an influx of demanding consumers that are used to accessibility, transparency, and a wide range of choices when it comes to schools, healthcare, infrastructure, and other services? Rural municipalities will have to compete for these new citizens and taxpayers. Municipalities that have been forward-looking enough to roll out broadband across their geographic territory and take advantages of digital techniques to offer a modern, connected life for their citizens will have great competitive advantages. Tech can support UN SDG 11A. In Sweden, there has long been a centralisation trend at national, regional, and municipal level. This is evident, for example, in media where local branches are closed down, in education where village schools are being closed in favour of larger units in the larger towns, and in health care where health-centres are closed down or shrunk to small branches. In the corporate sphere, centralisation is evident in the fact that more and more functions are concentrated to the head offices in the big cities. All of this means that public service, workplaces, and decision-making are gradually being brought to an ever-higher level, further away from people in rural areas. Many people want to live, their whole or part of their lives, in the city. In the same way, lots of people want to live, their whole or part of their lives, in rural areas. If we could halt the ongoing centralisation trend and instead, with the help of digital technology, build a society that enables both urban and rural living so that people could make their own decision on how and where they should live. That would be a better and richer country. This is also in line with the UNs Sustainable Development Goal 11A. With the help of tech we can support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas and create fantastic opportunities for everyone who want to live and work in the countryside.
Karin Witalis – Witalis Real Estate Consulting AB
Roger Tofft - PropTech Sweden
Karin Witalis - A civil engineer with one foot in the city and one on
– PropTech Sweden