The National Rural Network (NRN) have published the 2nd edition of our annual Smart Villages and Rural Towns newsletter inspired by the EU Action for Smart Villages initiative, launched by the European Commission in 2017.
Although there is no legal definition of a ‘smart village’ within EU legislation, Smart Villages (and Smart Rural Towns in an Irish context) are rural areas and local communities which build on, and enhance, their existing strengths and assets through creative thinking and by embracing innovation to create desirable places for rural people to live and work. In creating a Smart Village, community groups and individuals often overcome local challenges by exploring and implementing practical and tangible solutions. In particular, rural communities explore how local services, such as health, social services, education, energy, transport and retail, can be enhanced and sustained through the deployment of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools and community-led actions and projects. As such, whilst digitisation is key to the creation of a Smart Village, social innovation is also paramount i.e. thinking smartly to create vibrant and sustainable rural communities. The concept of Smart Villages therefore is not prescriptive and there is an acknowledgment that there is ‘no one size fits all’ model that can be applied universally. This in turn allows EU Member States broad discretion on how to plan for, and implement, this innovative initiative in their respective countries.
10 guest authors are featured within this new NRN publication (please see list below), compiled by Dr Shane Conway and Dr Maura Farrell from the Rural Studies Centre at NUI Galway and Daniel Bennett, Irish Rural Link, on behalf of the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD). Each bring forth their own examples of, and perspective on the smart rural movement, whilst maintaining the same foci: the creation of smart villages and rural towns.
- Smart Villages: Bridging Practice, Research and Policy – Dr Oskar Wolski, Geographer, National Science Centre, Poland
- iRoute 2 Conference and KITE Project – Declan Rice, CEO, Kilkenny LEADER Partnership (KLP)
- Borris Smart Village Portal – Aoibheann Murphy, Committee Member, Borris Smart Village
- Lusk for Life: Lusk Vision 2030 – Miriam Delaney, Architect and Lecturer at the Dublin School of Architecture, TU Dublin
- Mountbellew – A Rural and Smart Future – Steve Dolan, CEO, Galway Rural Development
- Urban Foresight Smart Towns and Villages for the SEUPB – Elliot Burns, Graduate Project Specialist, Urban Foresight
- Broadband for the Community, by the Community – Vernon Buckley, PRO and Board Member of Broadband 4 Our Community (B4OC)
- Donegal Digital: Leading The County’s Digital Transformation – Dr Margaret Quinn, Donegal Digital Project Manager and ERNACT Programme Manager
- Working Smart Together in Inishowen – Áine Mc Laughlin, Community Development Officer, Inishowen Development Partnership
- Smart Villages Training Programme Rolled out Across Wexford – Mary Dunphy, LEADER Project Officer, Wexford Local Development.
The newsletter also highlights Ireland’s position in relation to the development of Smart Villages and Rural Towns, in that it can be greatly enhanced through the successful delivery and modernisation of the LEADER Programme. Creating synergies between the LEADER Programme and the various smart supports, projects and initiatives showcased in this newsletter by Ireland’s NRN, through increased levels of collaboration, has the potential to greatly improve the quality of life for people who live and work in rural towns and villages throughout Ireland. The realisation of smart rural areas and communities can play a key role in the development and sustainability of rural Ireland by tackling issues such as depopulation, limited employment opportunities and out-migration. An overview of the Government of Ireland’s ‘Our Rural Future: Rural Development Policy 2021-2025’ strategy as well as the Rural Studies Centre at NUI Galway’s ‘Rural Voices’ seminar series are also featured within this publication.
This Smart Villages and Rural Towns newsletter’s focus on innovative community-led local development is now more important than ever as villages and rural towns throughout Ireland and Europe adapt, rebuild and reenergise as part of their COVID-19 pandemic recovery response.
You can freely view/download this newsletter here.
A print version of this newsletter can also be found here.