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Smart Work Version 2.0 in Rural Europe: micropols of the digital economy in non-metropolitan and peripherial regions

During the Open Days event, on 8th October 2013, in Brussels, two projects “Micropol” and “Engage”, funded by Interreg IV C programme, gave practical examples on how ICT and digital economy could be used to increase smart work in rural areas.

The Micropol Project: implementing smart centres in rural areas.

This project aims to promote ICT and smart work to restore life and growth in rural areas across Europe. North Denmark region is the lead partner of this project. In this rural area, the unemployment rate was especially high, even in the traditional sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and industry. No jobs were available for the young people and thus they left their region for studies and never came back. To fight against this demographic decline, the project Micropol aims to influence rural policies: ICT can serve as an important tool to suppress the geographic limits and give smart jobs to people in countryside.

Clive Peckham from Nièvres Numérique explained two examples in France where smart centres were created. In Lormes, an abattoir was transformed into a smart centre, which offers IT technical and practical support to smart workers and businesses. This smart centre offers free advice and training to professionals who want to improve their expertise in ICT tools. Seven workers are now implemented in this centre, including a person working on a software development for a construction company, a paper manufacturer, an IT person working on firewall in the defence sector.

To know more about the Lormes Good Practice, please click here

In Murat, a telework centre was implemented in a 600 inhabitant’s town. Self-employed or employed teleworkers can reserve a fully equipped office on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. All the offices are equipped with digital technologies (computers, high speed internet connection and telephone line). The telework centre is offering two meetings rooms, a video conference system, printer, photocopying, fax and scan machines, a possibility to take messages for teleworkers. The quality of this telework centre has been recognised and it has become a major training centre to encourage other rural areas to transfer and implement this good practice.

To know more about the Murat Good Practice, please click here

Andrew Martin from Berwick WorkSpace shared his experience on smart workplace. The Berwick workspace was elected as the best new incubator in United Kingdom in 2008. This business centre gathers in one smart workplace several services to help SMEs, such as a business education service, some reception facilities for all licensees, a cluster support, some business monitoring and support on-site, conference facilities for up to 55 persons and meetings rooms to rent. Since the creation of this business centre in 2008, 10 SMEs and 150 jobs were created.

To know more about the Berwick WorkSpace, please click here

The Engage Project: High Speed Broadband access for remote areas

ENGAGE aims to build HSB (High Speed Broadband) networks at efficient cost, translating best practice into effective and efficient policies. Anne-Marie Leppinen from the Economic Development Agency of Suupohja Region gave an example in her Finnish region: an HSB and open network was implemented to give internet access to all small villages of the Suupohja region, which didn’t have any Internet access before. All buildings are now connected to fiber, including schools and villages halls. This helps for teleworking, providing e-health services, e-learning, e-administration… A school square of Kauhajoki is for instance totally connected to fiber. Pupils are using tablets and electronic books instead of paper books, even during classes. Teachers can easily provide interactive lessons (with powerpoint /image /movie/ youtube…).

To know more about the Good Practices for HSB in the ENGAGE project, please click here

Is the future urban? Smart work to support a digital future in rural and mountain areas.

Even if the e-solutions are generally focusing on urban centres, these concrete examples show that ICT can be a key asset for rural and mountain areas to create economic activity and encourage people to stay in these areas. “Instead of big megalopolis, we could create some micropols thanks to co-working, shared workstations, HS or VHS broadband, social / networking space and mobile applications” advocated Clive Peckham. Smart work solutions are bringing a real alternative to urban areas. But in order to successfully implement these smart centres or HSB networks projects, Clive Peckham and Anne-Marie Leppinen insisted on three key points:

         A strong political will: the elected people should fully support smart work and encourage it

    A large and shared agreement with all stakeholders: the suggested solution should be discussed with elected people, future end-users including SMEs, associations and young people.

         A solution adapted to the needs: some huge investments are sometimes needed to connect a territory with a full HSB network. A good assessment of the needs will allow finding the best solution adapted to each particular situation.

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18 October 2013

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