The Nordic countries are at the forefront of digitalisation in Europe. The Baltic States show a more mixed performance, but still score around or above average on the European commission’s annual measure of digital progress, the Digital Economy and Society Index (DESI). Despite this positive development overall, disparities remain with respect to digital development within countries; with rural and sparsely populated areas often lagging behind on the availability of digital infrastructure and the adoption of digital technologies. As such, this project sought to provide a rural perspective on the second goal: Strengthening the competitiveness of our enterprises through digitalisation. Specifically, it aimed to demonstrate how smart, sustainable and inclusive approaches to digitalisation can be used as a tool to increase the competitiveness and attractiveness of rural areas by exploring the challenges and opportunities for small enterprises in rural and sparsely populated areas.
The baseline study explored the nature of digital transformation in rural areas and reflected on opportunities and challenges for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in rural areas in each of the Nordic countries and in Latvia. The study was developed through desk-based research conducted by Nordregio and a report prepared by Vidzeme Planning Region which detailed the Latvian context. It provided an overall context for the digitalisation of SMEs in rural areas including sector-specific information on the bioeconomy, manufacturing and tourism sectors.
The project was funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers for Digitalisation (MR-Digital), the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions 2017- 2020 and the North Atlantic Cooperation (NORA) and included a baseline study, local workshops and a webinar series. Its primary focus was the Nordic countries and Latvia; however, data is also provided for Estonia and Lithuania where possible.
You can learn about project results in digital divide, tourism, manufacturing and bioeconomy through these stories: https://nordregioprojects.org/innovation-results/