The EU is launching a new €30 million initiative, with rural digital service platforms, innovation ecosystems, the smart village approach, and standards at the forefront. Entering Europe’s Digital Decade, the European way of digital transformation living-in.eu provides minimal – but sufficient – interoperability of data, systems and services between smart cities and their suppliers.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been proven that those living in rural areas can still carry out their jobs and other activities when supported by their digital environment. In his keynote speech at the 2019 Connected Smart Cities Conference, Roberto Viola, the European Commission’s Director-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology, strongly encouraged the digital transition and emphasized that cities and communities will successfully transform if citizens are actively included in the creation of new digital services.
The two new large-scale pilot projects offer the opportunity to extend these Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms to rural smart communities. More than 50 partners from across Europe will participate in two new Rural Smart Communities innovation actions, having signed their grant agreements with the Commission’s Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT), who is co-leading this €30 million initiative focusing on boosting rural economies through cross-sector digital service platforms with the Directorate-General for Agriculture and Rural Development (DG AGRI).
The themes of the two new pilots launching are “AURORAL: Architecture for Unified Regional and Open digital ecosystems for Smart Communities and wider Rural Areas Large-scale application” and “dRURAL: The service marketplace for European rural areas”.
At the heart of these innovation actions are Smart Villages: communities in rural areas that use innovative solutions to improve their resilience, building on local strengths and opportunities, which goes in line with Declaration of cooperation on “A smart and sustainable digital future for European agriculture and rural areas”, signed by most European countries. The declaration is still open for signatures by decision-makers at all levels of government and for support by other stakeholders.
The new pilots build on earlier results, such as from project “OrganiCity“: Co-creating smart cities of the future” and from the Internet of Things (IoT) large-scale pilots “IoF2020: Internet of Food & Farm 2020” and “SynchroniCity: Delivering an IoT-enabled Digital Single Market for Europe & Beyond”. Building on the Minimal Interoperability Mechanisms (MIMs), the new projects will provide a universal approach to developing, procuring and deploying IoT- and AI-enabled services for smart and rural communities.
The MIMs will also be instrumental for the development of a dataspace for climate-neutral and smart communities federated at EU level; an initiative supported by the Digital Europe Programme in line with the Commission’s ambition to build a common European Green Deal dataspace. This will enable European smart cities and communities to benefit from cross-domain, cross-city and cross-community, easily portable data services and AI-powered tools such as urban digital twins.
The MIMs’ design principles are also the basis for transitioning to a new architecture in the UN initiative “United for Smart Sustainable Cities” (U4SSC).
The 2020 has forced us to transition in digital world more that we expected and 2021 is the year to build knowledge trough cooperation and opportunities forthcoming in the EU financial framework.