Policy Brief of Inclusive Digitalisation in the Baltic Sea Region
The BSR Stars S3 project has together with Nordregio published a Policy Brief on Inclusive Digitalisation in the Baltic Sea Region. The Policy Brief was based on the seminar sessions on Inclusive Digitalisation at the EUSBSR 8th Annual Forum in Berlin organised by Policy Area Innovation, in collaboration with Policy Area Bioeconomy, Baltic Development Forum and Nordregio.
How can decision makers help achieve inclusive digitalization in the Baltic Sea region? This is the question the Policy Brief explores through the identification of potential benefits to rural areas and the identification of unique challenges of rural areas. The brief also gives several policy recommendations to overcome these challenges in order for rural areas to reap the rewards of digitalization.
Amongst the benefits of increased digitalization identified through the brief are important aspects such as decreased isolation of rural inhabitants and increased diversification and competitiveness of local industry. The key challenges were identified as the lack of will within the local population and companies to embrace digitalization, in combination with the demographical issue of a lack of individuals with the required ICT skills and the unwillingness by public and private firms to hire rural firms for knowledge-based services.
What where then the identified solutions to this substantive issue? First and foremost the need for a separate policy for the digitalization of rural communities was asserted. The need to facilitate the support from ICT digitalization experts to aid rural SMEs in conjunction with the need for these firms to learn from urban hubs to connect their strengths, such as organic foods and nature tourism, to global pipelines was also considered key. For local administrations, an important step towards attracting young skilled “Digital interpreters” to their community was found to be the offering of affordable and attractive housing.
Finally, four best practice cases were identified, one from Sweden and three from Finland, where a combination of local government, public institutions and rural firms worked in conjunction to achieve prosperity through digitalization in rural areas.