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ICTs for rural development: potential applications and barriers involved

Les TIC au service du développement rural : applications potentielles et difficultés d’adoption
Anastasia Stratigea
p. 179-204

Résumés

L’évolution de la ruralité occupe actuellement une place centrale au sein du débat politique. Il s’agit à la fois de répondre aux besoins spécifiques des populations rurales, et de saisir les opportunités économiques pour le développement local. Cet article revêt une double ambition : d’une part, apporter un éclairage sur le rôle que les TIC peuvent effectivement jouer en faveur du développement rural ; et d’autre part, comprendre quelles sont les principales difficultés d’adoption dans cet espace si singulier. La première partie met l’accent sur l’existence d’un nouveau référentiel politique de développement rural intégrant désormais les TIC en tant qu’outil essentiel de son élaboration. La deuxième partie met en discussion les facteurs décisifs permettant un développement numérique rural efficace. La troisième partie pointe les difficultés d’adoption généralisée des populations et des entreprises vis-à-vis de ces nouvelles technologies. Dans une dernière partie, nous présentons l’ensemble des critères qui nous paraissent décisifs à la réussite des politiques publiques engagées en matière de numérique dans les espaces ruraux.

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Introduction

1During the last decades we are running the era of a new industrial revolution, driven by the developments of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the Internet, which have considerably influenced patterns of working, living, socializing, producing, marketing, cooperating, interacting, etc. The core of this revolution is relating to the convergence of Information and Communication Technologies, which enables the collection, processing, storing, transformation, retrieval and finally transmission of information, in whatever form it may take - oral, written or visual – removing thus barriers of distance, time and volume/type of information. The new regime is characterized by Kastells (2010) as “… informational, global and networked”, attributing its distinctive intertwining features.

2The potential offered by ICTs has created large expectations in many groups of the society as to their ability to deal with challenges and threats in the new era. More specifically, ICTs have created expectations, among others, to (EC, 2004):

  • Citizens and consumers in respect to the improvement of the quality of their life and the options available for getting access to better services and entertainment.

  • Remote and peripheral regions in respect to the improvement of their access to opportunities in a competitive world and the removal of any kind of barriers relating to geographical distance/isolation.

  • Governmental and administrative bodies in respect to their potential to serve the needs of citizens, businesses and other bodies in a more efficient, transparent and responsive way.

  • Businesses and small-medium-sized enterprises in respect to the potential offered by ICTs for more effective management and organization structures, direct access to employees’ training and other services, direct on-line interaction with customers and suppliers, chances for cooperation, etc.

3Rural regions, accounting for about 75% of the land and almost a quarter of the population in OECD countries, are nowadays facing problems of decline and out-migration, ageing of their population, a lower skill base and average labor productivity, etc. (OECD, 2006), which strongly affect their competitive position in the new era. In order to deal with the above deficiencies, rural development policy needs to be readdressed towards a direction that will be based on the effective and more sustainable exploitation of available resources and human capital, as well as the better coordination and interaction among sectors, levels of government and public and private actors. Towards this end a new, society empowering, place-based, cross-sectoral, integrated rural policy paradigm is coming to the fore, having at its core the more effective exploitation of the endogenous potential of rural regions and the creation of various types of partnerships, which can be heavily drawn upon ICTs developments.

4Increasing accessibility of rural regions to ICTs and their applications seems to be a promising policy option for the future development of rural regions, with beneficial influences to citizens, firms and rural communities as a whole, due to their potential of establishing an open platform for effective and efficient interaction and intelligence gathering, that serves both the micro-level (individuals and firms) and the macro-level (rural regions) towards the enhancement of their competitive position in the new economy context.

5The focus of the present paper is twofold: on the one hand it attempts to shed light on the role of ICTs and their applications as enabling tools, supporting rural development perspectives; while on the other hand it explores the barriers appearing towards the adoption and use of ICTs in rural regions. In such a context, Chapter 2 elaborates on the newly evolving rural development paradigm, distinguished by a society empowering, cross-sectoral, place-based and integrated development approach. Chapter 3 explores the range and potential of ICTs applications that can serve the implementation of the new policy paradigm in rural regions. Chapter 4 presents the steps that are needed in order to develop value-added ICTs applications in rural regions and the barriers appearing in the adoption and use of ICTs in these regions. Finally, in Chapter 5, some policy recommendations are presented, which could reinforce the adoption and use of ICTs serving rural development objectives.

Towards a new rural development policy paradigm in the information economy

6New economy has been perceived as “… a fundamental transformation of the economy via globalization, new technologies and a noticeable shift to more knowledge intensive activities” (Copeland, 2003, p. 7). Under these new circumstances, policy making in general, but also rural development policy in particular, needs to readdress its focus and direction in the new era, in order to be able to deal effectively with sustainable rural development objectives, namely social cohesion, competitiveness of the rural productive systems in a globalized world and environmental protection.

7As many researchers claim, rural development nowadays cannot be considered as identical to agricultural development, especially in the developed countries (AGRIBLUE, 2004; OECD, 2005a, 2005b; OECD, 2006; Pizzoli and Gong, 2007; Bollman, 2007), although the role of the agricultural sector in rural regions is fully acknowledged as ‘environmental safeguard’ [COM(1999)22; COM(2005)304; EC, 2005; Walls, 2006]; and as a sector that can support the development of other sectors of the rural economy [OECD, 2005a; COM(2005)304 final; Giaoutzi et al, 2008]. This is most evident in the manufacturing and food sectors (Hall, 2004; Clark and Chabrel, 2007; Fennell, 2008), but also in the tourism and leisure sectors, as many of the beautiful landscapes are in fact farmed landscapes (Scarpa and Cicia, 2000). According to Bruckmeier and Tovey (2009), rural development, in a broader interpretation, has to be approached in a way integrating its social dimension, as a creator of sustainable livelihoods; its economic dimension as a redistributor of economic and other resources enabling a socially inclusive development process; and its environmental dimension, as a navigator of the link between social and ecosystems.

8Rural regions, although rich in natural and cultural resources, they are often seen as regions with certain deficits in knowledge capacity that constrain efficient exploitation of these resources. The emergence of the Information and Knowledge Society and its power in gathering, processing, storing, retrieving and transmitting knowledge and information at a distance, seems to create new promising perspectives towards the future development of rural regions. Knowledge and Information Society nowadays are taking a variety of forms across rural Europe, with considerable impacts on the development perspectives of rural regions (Bruckmeier and Tovey, 2009). As empirical evidence from the European territory shows (Tovey and Mooney, 2006; Bruckmeier and Tovey, 2009), contemporary trends in sustainable rural development are revealing a changing nature of development processes in the EU rural regions. These processes are heavily based on the effective gathering and processing of information and knowledge and their use by the social actors involved in rural development, towards the achievement of the EU sustainable rural development objectives, namely: the pursuance of economically competitive rural societies; the shift towards more pluralistic (inclusive) societies, built upon the consensus of a broad variety of social actors, with their respective interests, knowledge, views, values etc.; and the pursuance of an environmentally responsible rural development perspective, placing less burden on the environment and the natural and cultural resources.

9Rural development policy nowadays needs to deal effectively with a number of challenges that are relating to the:

  • Differentiation of rural regions based on both resources and history, tradition, values, etc. of local societies, the effective exploitation of which calls for a place-based multi-objective approach, falling into the general planning goal of sustainable development.

  • Shift from an agriculture-based rural development approach to a multi-sectoral development perspective that will pursue the sustainable exploitation of the whole range of resources available in rural regions (e.g. small-scale food processing, new alternative forms of rural tourism, non-agricultural rural economy), which calls for a cross-sectoral approach.

  • Need to establish interaction among sectors in order to develop synergies and reap the benefits out of them for the whole region, which calls for an integrated approach.

  • Need to mobilize all actors involved (citizens, businesses, administration, institutions, etc.) by establishing proper communication platforms for the exchange of ideas, seeking for a wider consensus on future rural development paths, which calls for a society-empowering approach, based on participation.

  • The need to get access to information and knowledge sources that will increase knowledge capacity in rural regions, which calls for an inclusive information and knowledge society approach.

10Apart from the above challenges, policy making for rural areas is also nowadays largely framed by the following key factors (OECD, 2006):

  • The increasing value attached by the society to amenities, both natural and cultural, certain of which are not only locally consumed, but are of importance for the society as a whole. Rural areas are definitely disposing a wide range of non-agricultural resources, such as important antiquities, historical sites and other recreational amenities, which are increasingly appreciated as attracting features that can be properly managed and marketed to the benefit of the development of rural regions. In this respect, policy makers need to move beyond the narrow focus of multifunctionality of agriculture and adopt a new rural policy paradigm that will identify and valorize the whole range of amenities and account for positive and negative externalities, associated with different activities in rural areas.

  • The increasing pressure towards the reform of agricultural policy worldwide that emanates mainly from: the distorting effect of the subsidization of agricultural products on trade; and the economic burden exerted by the provision of subsidies on the budgets of the different nations. This pressure has gradually shifted the emphasis of agricultural policy from an incentive-oriented to an investment market-oriented agricultural policy.

  • The last key factor is relating to the decentralization trend in regional policy. Such a trend has been largely supported by both the theory and the practice of regional policy and the ascertainment that traditional approaches, based on financial redistribution, did not succeed to deal effectively with regional disparities in rural regions. In this respect, the effectiveness of the present agricultural policy is argued, as to the emphasis it poses on farmers rather than on places, focusing on a small segment of rural population; and the subsidization of production (e.g. CAP) that leads to the disturbance of territorial cohesion, by favoring the most productive, accessible and geographically smooth agricultural regions. Based on that, there is a need for a more decentralized rural policy approach that will identify and target local opportunities, which are capable of mobilizing local assets. Key issues in such an approach are the focus on: an inclusive decision making approach, assuring the participation of all stakeholders involved at the local level; a better exploitation of the endogenous assets and knowledge; and a new collective / negotiating governance approach, namely a cross-cutting and multi-level policy approach assuring better coordination of governmental agencies (horizontal between and within agencies as well as vertical across the various levels of government), where local government has a dominant role to play.

11In Fig. 1 below is presented the shift from the traditional to the new rural development policy paradigm.

Fig. 1. From traditional approaches to a new paradigm of rural development policy

Fig. 1. From traditional approaches to a new paradigm of rural development policy

Source: OECD, 2006

12The above challenges and key factors have been, in the one or the other way, incorporated in the rural development efforts of various countries around the world. Examples are the rural development policy of (OECD, 2006): Canada and Finland, distinguished by the integration of the local and central governmental levels, with the local level in a protagonist role in setting policy priorities; Germany and United Kingdom, where rural policy has a more locally-focused orientation, based on the creation of local strategic partnerships (LSPs); Mexico, adopting an integrated approach to rural development based on highly participatory approaches; the Netherlands, where the integration among local and central government policy objectives is taking place, with central government at the role of setting policy targets and local government at the role of translating these targets into action and integrating them into the local and regional development plans; etc. It is also worth noting the positive results of the EU LEADER Community Initiative for the development of rural regions and the promotion of local partnerships, based on an integrated approach to rural development, driven by the endogenous potential of these regions.

13According to OECD (2006), four important policy areas are of relevance for shifting from a mono-sectoral policy approach (agricultural sector) to an integrated (multi-sectoral) approach, namely:

  • Transport and ICTs infrastructure development that will support the increase of interaction potential of rural areas.

  • Provision of public services.

  • Identification and valorization of amenities (both natural and cultural); and

  • Provision of support to small businesses in rural regions (entrepreneurship).

14Based on the above described challenges and key factors, driving the new rural development policy paradigm, as well as the policy fields of importance, in the following section the discussion will be concentrated on the exploration of the range and potential of ICTs applications, which can contribute to the development of rural regions, driving a society empowering, cross-sectoral, place-driven (based on the specific characteristics of rural regions, development potential, knowledge and capacities), integrated new rural policy paradigm. ICTs, in this respect, are considered as mechanisms reinforcing digital inclusion, bridging thus the digital divide between rural and urban regions, and creating network value through knowledge and information diffusion that is critical in pursuing sustainable rural development objectives.

ICTs applications adding value to rural development perspectives

15Within the new, society empowering, cross-sectoral, place-based, integrated policy paradigm for rural development, of critical importance is the interaction taking place among the various actors, namely citizens / society, businesses and administrative units, both within a rural region and between the region and the outer world. ICTs can support a two-directional interaction among the main actors in rural societies (see Table 1 below).
The range and potential of ICTs applications that are serving these types of interaction in rural regions, but also add value to personal, business and rural regions’ development perspectives are presented in the following, classified as to their contribution to the individual / societal, business and administrative level (see Fig. 2 below).

ICTs applications at the individual / societal level

16In this section are presented ICTs applications that can apply to the individual / societal level.

Provision of community services

17A number of ICTs applications can be identified that allow citizens of rural regions to enjoy access to those basic services that are necessary for the improvement of the quality of their life, decreasing thus inequality in access to services between rural and urban population. As such, can be mentioned (see Figure 2 below):

18-e-Health services: distant, non-stop medical support of rural population is of importance, especially for the elderly or disabled groups, mainly due to the limited access of rural regions to sufficient health services. ICTs are offering a great potential in this respect and a great progress can be marked in the field of e-health applications. In-house video-phone equipment allows direct communication of rural citizens with properly equipped health centers, where they can send video information and receive care support from specialized staff. This staff can monitor citizens’ health via ICTs equipment (e.g. a GIS and a CRM system keeping historical clinic information) and properly intervene in case of critical incidents. Portable devices (e.g. cell phones) can also be used, which enable population to be real-time monitored by specialized health centers (see relevant application in www.trikalacity.gr). Moreover, e-health applications can also be used for both disease management and prevention.

Table 1: Types of interaction enabled by ICTs among the main actors in rural regions

  • 1 The framework of Palvia and Sharma (2007) for e-government and e-governance is adopted, where e-gov (...)

To

From

Individual/Citizen

Business

Administration

Individual / Citizen

C2C

Citizen to Citizen

e.g. social networks, e-communities

C2B

Citizen to Business

Citizens as clients – access to mar­ket­places or busi­nesses

Citizens as emplo­yees

C2G

Citizen to Government

e-government

(access of citizens to public services e.g. tax offices)

Business

B2C

Business to Citizen

e.g. e-marketing,

e-commerce, e-banking

B2B

Business to Business

e.g. e-commerce,

networking - virtual enterprise

B2G

Business to Government

(access of businesses to public services)

Administration

G2C

Government to Citizen

e-government – provision of public services

G2B

Government to Business

e-government

G2G

Government to Government

e-government1

G2E

(e-governance2 – government to employee)

Stratigea Anastasia

19-e-Learning services based on ICTs: aim at reducing barriers to the access of rural population to education / training services. e-Learning applications are quite useful both at the educational level (school) and the community level. At the educational level they can provide an e-learning platform that supports the teacher’s work (e.g. organize and upload pedagogical material, create an on-line library of the courses); the student’s work (e.g. on-line access to the library; on-line clarifications and cooperation); the group work e.g. access to remote laboratories for experimental work. Moreover, they increase familiarization of young people and development of skills in ICTs. At the community level, each individual has the possibility to use on-line learning services (e-courses) offered by various providers (companies, universities, private and public institutions, etc.), developing thus new skills and competencies that lead to personal empowerment and increase of skills and knowledge of employees in rural regions, adding value to labour productivity and competitiveness.

20-e-Libraries: offering access of rural population to knowledge and information sources. Joining networks of libraries enables local population (students, professionals, etc.) to share a larger amount of knowledge resources. As an example, the municipal library of Trikala-Greece is one of the 30 selected libraries in Greece that joins the Greek National Network of Public Libraries, getting access to catalogues of all Greek public libraries, to special Web portals, but also to a "digital depository of books and periodicals" developed at the national level (www.trikalacity.gr). Users of the municipal library can, by accessing an in-house helpdesk, view or order articles and books in a digital form.

21-e-Culture: ICTs applications are offering rural population access to museums, cultural events etc. These are interesting applications, especially for young people in remote rural regions, keeping them on-line with exceptional cultural assets and events all over the world. An interesting application of e-culture has, among others, taken place in the rural region of Kastelli-Crete, in the context of the EU project Rural Wings, addressed to students of primary or secondary school (http://ruralwings.rd.forthnet.gr/​).

22-m- e-banking: improving access to financial services is vital for rural regions, especially the more remote ones. e-banking and m-banking applications can revolutionize the provision of formal services of the banking sector, offering new cost-effective ways of delivering traditional services, with huge benefits for users.

Fig. 2 : ICTs applications in rural regions at the individual/societal, business and administrative level

Fig. 2 : ICTs applications in rural regions at the individual/societal, business and administrative level

Societal level – e-Inclusion

23-Social networking: the development of ICTs has largely contributed to the increase of social interaction taking place between individual to individual, individual to group, group to individual and group to group communication. ICTs and the Internet can be characterized as highly e-inclusive technologies, allowing people to establish links with the rest of the community or other communities as well. e-Inclusion is of paramount importance for rural regions, especially for those which are geographically isolated, leading to the creation of social networks. Such networks are vital for the strengthening of social relationships among citizens of rural communities, but also can be considered as important platforms for information dissemination and increase of awareness on various issues of concern at the local level.

24-Social learning – knowledge-sharing platforms: the unlimited potential for interaction among various partners based on ICTs is marking the growing capacity of multiple-actor networks to develop and perform collective actions (HarmoniCOP Project, 2003), assuring both e-participatory potential and network-run (web-based) technical processes.

25-Participatory decision making is a promising option provided by ICTs and relates to the most sophisticated level of e-Government, characterized by “networked presence” (Palvia and Sharma, 2007). Rural citizens, in such a context, are deliberatively involved in a two way open dialogue with governmental institutions, and express their views, visions, expectations etc., playing thus an active role in the decision-making process. Various examples of successful implementation of ICTs for participatory decision making are encountered e.g. smart cities. Trikala – Greece is an exceptional example of such a city, where a variety of ICTs applications for public involvement is established (www.trikalacity.gr).

26-Teleworking: is an important application of ICTs and a promising one in the rural context. ICTs are key drivers, among others, for the greater flexibility of jobs in time and space (Vescoukis et al, 2003). New, location- and time-independent working structures are now offering the potential for decentralization of work through various teleworking schemes. Teleworking, as a powerful tool for “breaking down barriers between people, places, roles and activities” (EC, 1999), can benefit rural regions by rendering them attractive locations for the development of teleworking schemes e.g. televillages, with considerable consequences in terms of new job creation, based on the geographical dispersion of businesses; strong job growth in the service sector (Korte and Wynn, 1996; EC, 1999); restructuring of socio-economic pattern of rural regions; production and consumption patterns; commercial and social interactions (EC, 2001).

ICTs applications at the business level

27In this section are presented the range and potential of ICTs applications that can apply to the business level.

e-Agriculture - Farm-specific ICTs applications

  • 2 “e-Agriculture”: an emerging field in the intersection of agricultural informatics, agricultural de (...)

28In the 21st century, a new knowledge-based farming system is emerging that, based on farm-specific ICTs applications (e-Agriculture2) can support the: profitability at the farm level; production of competitive, market-oriented, qualitative food products; decrease of environmental and climate change impacts; and energy efficiency (FAO, 2005; Downey, 2006). Knowledge and information are key requirements that enable farmers to deal with contemporary challenges, particularly as the new agricultural technologies become more “knowledge-intensive” (Abdon and Raab, 2004).

29As Engelhard (2000) claims, agriculture nowadays is an information-intensive sector, drawing upon an infinite number of sources of widely dispersed “locally contextualized knowledge” and a considerable body of research material. Moreover, it relies upon the continuous flow of information from local, regional and world markets. The rise of ICTs, with their wide variety of applications, holds a great promise for agricultural development in rural regions.

30ICTs farm-specific applications can be roughly distinguished into: on-farm support services; management and decision making support services; and on-site support services, all delivering appropriate knowledge and information to farmers in rural regions. These are presented as follows:

  • 3 PDA – Personal Digital Assistance equipment.

31-On-farm support services refer to the provision of on-farm personalized information via mainly wireless communication. Remote rural farmers can get access to special agricultural support services by use of mobile and wireless networking technologies, integrated to the satellite broadband channel (FAO, 2005). By these means, farmers can get: access to on-farm support (consulting services) by directly linking to agriculturalists; and information on specific problems at the farm level. The end users (farmers) can be located in remote areas (e.g. farms or greenhouses) and, by using mobile devices (Tablet PCs and PDA3s), they are able to raise questions to agriculturalists; transmit digital information in real-time; and get immediate diagnostic feedback. Interaction can be either synchronous e.g. transmit digital photos of infected plants in real-time and wait for immediate diagnostic feedback; and asynchronous e.g. raise an issue, ask questions to agriculturalists or to other farmers, upload high resolution pictures relevant to the issue raised and gather knowledge on the issue at hand.
Moreover, the convergence of different technologies e.g. nano-biotechnology with ICTs, has created effective new technological products that are now available in the market, which claim to resolve various kinds of problems. Examples are nano-sensors embedded in the ground, which, combined with ICTs, can provide valuable information to farmers on the variations in soil quality, the water table and crops on a day-to-day basis (SCAR Foresight, 2007).

32-Management and decision-making support services aiming at the enhancement of farmers’ knowledge for management and decision-making purposes. As ICTs applications, serving this purpose, can be considered:

  • Precision farming: advanced e-Agriculture application, where ICTs, computers and satellite technologies are used to better manage farm resources (FAO, 2005), based on the identification, analysis and management of spatial and temporal variability of soil and plants (e.g. through digital field records) that are supporting efficiency and sustainability objectives (rational use of resources, such as water and fertilizers).

  • Access to information and knowledge systems: supports the acquisition of various kinds of farm-specific information, e.g. weather information for irrigation, seed options, information for field work purposes (Thysen and Detlefsen, 2006), but also information on commodity prices, developments in farm machinery, pesticides and chemicals etc. that aim at supporting decisions at the farm level and improve farm management. As various studies show (FAO, 2005), farmers involved in such processes migrate quickly to Web-based transactions.

33-On-site support services delivering knowledge and information to farmers. As such can be mentioned the following:

  • On-site training services by agriculturalists - e-Seminars - available either in real time or in recorded video. These provide useful knowledge on various themes of agricultural interest, e.g. new and improved ways of cultivation, sustainable production, management issues, advisory services on new technologies in farming, cost effective techniques, new and upcoming agricultural methods, and agricultural events.

  • e-Marketing – e-Commerce that allow farmers to directly access either traders or customers in order to: market and sell their products; identify targeted audience; collect and track client/customer information on preferences; provide on-line information on product updates at a minimum effort and cost; etc.

  • Access to e-Libraries that helps farmers to acquire specialized knowledge in respect to issues of interest, which enhance local knowledge in agricultural issues e.g. sustainable agricultural practices, organic farming, new production techniques, marketing approaches, agricultural policy framework.

  • Access to e-communities via which farmers and other professionals in rural regions can get access to professional networks, crossing geographical boundaries and exchanging information with other members of the community that contributes to the increase of their knowledge and experience or the pursuance of mutual interests (networking) and objectives within the e-community.

Food quality and safety

34The increasing concern of consumers as to the quality and safety aspects of food is reflected to their demand for improved traceability of food in the whole chain of production, processing and distribution (from "farm to plate" chain). Traceability is becoming a mainstream commercial requirement and will continue to be a key requirement for exporting agricultural production e.g. to EU and the USA, based on the introduction of the EU General Food Law and the US Bioterrorism Act 2002 that have made traceability a mandatory requirement for market access (Babria, 2003). Moreover, there is already considerable evidence that the demand for certified safe and traceable food will continue to rise also for domestic production and supply in many countries (Zhillin, 2003).

35Data management, based on ICTs, is the core of the food traceability issue (Zhillin, 2003), relating to the capture, identification, processing and dissemination of relative information, in combination with satellite imaging and mapping to enable real-time tracking and geo-traceability (GeoTraceAgri Project, 2005).

e-Business

36ICTs and their applications are offering a platform supporting businesses in rural regions, both in the agricultural and other sectors, towards the: re-engineering of their production, management and organization processes; support of direct on-line interaction with customers; search for new market opportunities etc., enhancing thus their competitive potential in the new economy. The most promising ICTs applications for rural regions in the business sector are:

  • e-Commerce: ICTs are offering rural businesses the potential to establish an on-line transaction space with their customers and/or other businesses (B2C and B2B interaction).

  • e-Marketing: rural businesses can, by means of ICTs, market their products by establishing direct links with their customers (firms or individuals), creating thus a dynamic and adaptive two-way communication, increasing their potential towards the identification and adjustment to customers’ needs; permeating to new market segments, etc. (B2C and B2B interaction).

  • e-Training (life-long e-training): businesses can get access to distant training opportunities for their employees, which support the upgrading of their knowledge and skills at an affordable cost.

  • e-Marketplace: based on ICTs, rural regions can develop e-marketplaces as marketing and transaction platforms that are based on local enterprises/products. Such e-marketplaces can allocate virtual spaces to all local businesses, so that their products are marketed through the network, providing access to a much larger clientele and bypassing traditional trade networks that often manipulate market prices. Several interesting examples of such marketplaces are developed in rural regions, e.g. B2Bpricenow.com in Philipinnes, Agriwatch in India (Hammond and Paul, 2006), but also in small urban settlements e.g. a B2C marketplace in Trikala-Greece.

New business opportunities

37ICTs, in their function to diffuse information irrespectively of time, place and volume/type, are “enabling technologies”, supporting new business opportunities. ICTs applications in this respect can:

  • At the firm level: support a new, more efficient, intra-organizational structure of firms in rural regions; provide access to operating support, etc.

  • At the market level: enable firms in rural regions (farmers, manufacturers, tourist firms, etc.) to reach new market segments by directly accessing their clients (firms and consumers); and enable business networking as a cost-effective approach for generating new business opportunities e.g. virtual organization based on network interaction (Lockett and Holland, 1996; Lorenzoni and Baden-Fuller, 1993; Powell, 1990; Stratigea et al, 2006). Such business network structures in rural areas can be formed either between farmers, sharing resources, distribution networks, risks, etc. or between farmers and other businesses e.g. in a food chain structure (“from field to table” business agri-food chain), aiming at the strengthening of the position of firms involved against the increasing competition and the more efficient use of available resources.

  • At the sectoral level: enable new business opportunities in various sectors e.g. tourism sector, manufacturing sector, service sector (Stratigea and Giaoutzi, 2006; Stratigea et al, 2008).

ICTs applications at the administrative level

38In the following are presented ICTs applications that can apply to the administrative level.

e-Governance

39ICTs applications are supporting the improvement of the production processes within governmental agencies, by transforming interaction patterns among employees (G2E interaction). As a result, cost-effective public services are produced (Palvia and Sharma, 2007), based on the more effective management of organizational resources (capital, human, materials and machinery).

e-Government

40ICTs applications can effectively support the interaction taking place between governmental agencies on the one hand and citizens, businesses or other bodies of government on the other. In such a context, they consist of a communication platform, along which interaction is taking place in one of the following forms (Palvia and Sharma, 2007):

  • A one way communication, in which governmental agencies are disseminating various types of information, e.g. regulatory services, public hearing schedules, issue briefs, notifications.

  • A two-way communication between governmental agencies and citizens, businesses or other governmental agencies. Such an interaction implies that individuals, businesses or other bodies can engage in a dialogue with a certain governmental agency, in which they can communicate problems, post comments, or requests to the agency.

  • Conducting of transactions such as lodging tax returns, applying for services etc.

41Such a ICTs-enabled communication platform can provide and/or improve governmental services in rural areas by allowing on-line transactions through the development of one-stop e-Government portal (G2C, G2B and G2G interaction). Moreover, it increases efficiency and improves services of governmental agencies in rural regions, assures better accessibility of public to services and improves transparency in decision making and accountability. Many good examples of e-Government can be encountered nowadays, with a prominent example from the Greek territory being the small city of Trikala, keeping one of the first twenty positions worldwide in this effort (http://www.trikalacity.gr/​).

Barriers appearing in the adoption and use of ICTs applications in rural areas

42The following steps need generally to be undertaken in order to develop ICTs applications in rural areas:

43First step: deployment of the necessary network infrastructure, referring to both hardware e.g. fiber optic or wireless public broadband networks, fixed wireless technology (WiFi, WiMax), mobile wireless (m-) reaching directly individual end-users, satellite networks (VSAT) for data transmission, local networks, hubs - terminals for public use (nodes providing access to network services), cable Interactive Digital Television (IDTV), Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), etc. (see Hammond and Paul, 2006); and software.

44Second step: creation of the ICTs applications and content layer, involving all applications and digital services that are best suited to the needs of each specific rural region, together with the content needed for each application, e.g. establishment of e-Government platforms for the provision of services to the citizens or e-training applications, together with the necessary content layers serving these applications. Various sector-specific applications for rural regions can also be developed in this step (e.g. health-care, tourism, training, food industry, agricultural applications).

45Third step: relates to the familiarization of the end-users with ICTs and their applications in order to become active members of digital affairs in the rural community. This step implies the:

  • Familiarization of rural population with new technologies through training on the use of ICTs, that will motivate them to joint the ‘trip’;

  • Familiarization of businesses with new technologies and their potential for supporting new business opportunities; and

  • Preparation of local authorities and administration as pioneers of the whole effort, in terms of neeriization ofre ktio Assistan (ing to boaul, 2006); )as marke throut-effectiveacultural events.

36Barriers appeaide in liarizatided bynicati for rutioy disg-ineld ely suAccess to information and"toctye-Governd knowturae geogowards hich, ci lang="en">In th steps oming s(PSTN)0.jpg3ver">I)d as follows:

Barriers appearing in t/doption and al agencies in rrative level

Barriers appearing in t/doption and al agencies in rrative level" />

37: dee necessary network inm>Thirdto uraries: offetter accescations for ruding accessary network inision c loccn agricu al ays,ot most promising ICTs as appesati for r. ="tocto1nlin, 2003), relathrough the devg accessary network inisplications in rurr proationte"ercithich, cotep implies the:

  • 38Thisplications in ruransact implies the:

    39

    • ICTeed on faustome ‘trip’;

    • PDA (owlede plicancreernes farmere of)as maions in t people and (chnologital iny ofuctionsion, loca and gathesion, locas and their po and gathee effectiv) (INVENT,icultural de

    • Co and al aces tcitizens of ruraltic ispersetive, mar citizeng of socd knowl, yem, of >Preeaking domay be busine confor now ai a ,uirementive, mar citizeng of socd knowl, ers semay 4">Barmatikert ‘trip’;

    • 40finitorms: ththe growig accessary network inispliowledge inetiting side variety of h/scations se of uuldvtiveest suited to tications inoral regionsroationt will: implies the:

      • 41Thi: mafood i espeche processes;e-or-specific anabhe needs of each specific . ="tocto1n5), farmers involpan>In su" lang="en"> implies the:

        • : dee necessary network inarma, 2007)n with new tec productst iuil sector, dr, thereation, e.a ICTs-enabled coses cah, ci l needlace in the rurTon plion taaking do), cization of rurali late territoro joint th,nt will l:cking ates to tn sois sgtwork (Pnd channel unities; and

        • finitoaration of rura unities; and

        • 42Barriers appisan>In su" loften), implies the:

          • Barriers am1nne mosaising ICTs ad fn be echnologalogue wites with ny ), relais with ny disn-madebyarization of et al, 2008).

          • Pricult timems,d ICTs applifuk iniiervic people andation gricul rural areas

            43In sutween fwang="ailsedd-2 thaload higrueoin the rurTsied et s).

            44: deti (ased on farm-specific ICTs applications pplicationinhabit soil ICTsales to ta6); able witmke-uprlo diffuse S"toctyee developed in rurchnity th2003), relilifuk ini people and (ECies (Zhillications).

            45

          • Thi:ec producaynames, integrl:cking es upon therompers, sedelies nebased and supservices in arogratpione pos. Aleconnd vneFi, WiMrequir), mobiary network inissueecific ICTs a(witgng ifular WLANd)n with new ,atansactimicr povns,auth802.11o thromol)a-Governese proierreations in ,apommuniapomecific ICTs apynames, inTV sma-ent boxonalECies (Zhillications).

          • Thi,ications are suprms for the p of on-farm p and gathe boualo diffusetic reations in ,aeGIStracecrossin>rlo diffuse S knowl)applyilayers towards the idedeveeatcialng tncal authrt servytaitoaray of-ckly tand digitpplication people and oducim-Govenfordable cost.

          • on the mor" laess-enabled coary network ini/e productim>Thi:ec produc, cuh) and,inial agenout ordet, in whic ICTsoilo est agenfective nyan>Mselfal commommAsstucim-Govenft imp bodi) anoaratio for you products by eess-enabled cohing applicatity th2003)elilitowasir knowledge(Asht coubliTof rAR Fo4 e Tng="copption and people and aierreations in ,athuuldvbeoil qpd ,ot amilia an4Drorma, 2007iuil sectparatinhe grow,ications sion maepvencon(IIEDchann9nsrdable cost.

          • Access to em>Thi,iay idrdirectllowiusto on cess2007)n with new tec pr processn the rurTiuil sectA mark sgtwd nowadang ifular emphasis2007)n with new type, are regioil sectng s (caganf ruraial r,tag="en" netwoatalystir po and gatheg knowledge and functiura unities; and

          • Thi:ec pralnologiesal sp wait (Knetunischan10)entificatioions, ass integrlaratin the rbled comn-econorompetitvaryby eess-enabled coormation on contion of t.unities; and

          • Fami)n with new ,ang support, etc.

          • Thi:ng s (caganizationain uy.grrm-s,eir products by ere ktioe-Trainingliusnes as markee terress network structurs for rusommuniapomir fucter , 2003 and gathendariese , matuies eliusnes asn patAccess to e combinimilar sied et al, 2008).

          • Thi:" laparatiorities and ad">Thi:ctioeadf thal products by eal -usernnced e- structurs for r. Ang="en">Many mom,asn patment o, rela-enabipal the small cite in Tr (sn patting one o20ry bessness opporpione pos) applicais tond vn to tthimparatiorities and ad havupportingmpeti:e5), fartion,o tthimt-effecin="es of nthimparatiogs,d ;e plicanhe rurTong ifip each, s relatharency in deci producharma, 2007), brms for the peeriizatio-users with ation, e.g. estabg : s shment of etioCenciesnment)rnnced e-ng ovnsforminget al, 2008).

          Notes

          1 The framework of Palvia and Sharma (2007) for e-government and e-governance is adopted, where e-government is relating to G2C, G2B or G2G (extranet – internet interaction), while e-governance is referring to G2E, better serving management of organizational resources (intranet interaction).

          2 “e-Agriculture”: an emerging field in the intersection of agricultural informatics, agricultural development and entrepreneurship, referring to agricultural services, technology dissemination and information delivered or enhanced through the Internet and related technologies. More specifically, it involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of new (innovative) ways to use existing or emerging Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) (definition provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization – FAO, 2005).

          3 PDA – Personal Digital Assistance equipment.

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          Table des illustrations

          Titre Fig. 1. From traditional approaches to a new paradigm of rural development policy
          Crédits Source: OECD, 2006
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/docannexe/image/144/img-1.jpg
          Fichier image/jpeg, 88k
          Titre Fig. 2 : ICTs applications in rural regions at the individual/societal, business and administrative level
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/docannexe/image/144/img-2.jpg
          Fichier image/jpeg, 348k
          Titre Fig. 3: Barriers appearing in the adoption /use of ICTs in rural regions
          URL http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/docannexe/image/144/img-3.jpg
          Fichier image/jpeg, 106k
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          Pour citer cet article

          Référence papier

          Anastasia Stratigea, « ICTs for rural development: potential applications and barriers involved », Netcom, 25-3/4 | 2011, 179-204.

          Référence électronique

          Anastasia Stratigea, « ICTs for rural development: potential applications and barriers involved », Netcom [En ligne], 25-3/4 | 2011, mis en ligne le 29 mars 2013, consulté le 17 décembre 2017. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/netcom/144 ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.144

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          Auteur

          Anastasia Stratigea

          Dipl. Eng. – PhD. - Assistant Professor
          Dept. of Geography and Regional Planning - School of Rural and Surveying Engineering
          National Technical University of Athens – Greece
          Heroon Polytechniou str. 9 – Zographou Campus – Athens 157 80 – GREECE
          Phone: +30 210 7722672
          Fax: +30 210 7722750
          E-mail: stratige@central.ntua.gr

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          Licence Creative Commons
          Netcom – Réseaux, communication et territoires est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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