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Digitalisation Economic and Social Impact in Rural Areas - DESIRA

DESIRA consortium at the Kick off meeting Pisa, italy 3-6th September 2019
DESIRA consortium at the Kick off meeting Pisa, italy 3-6th September 2019

The DESIRA project was launched in June 2019 and is funded under the European Union Horizon 2020 programme. DESIRA explores the potential future impacts of digital developments in three rural domains: agriculture, forestry and rural areas. Digital technologies of relevance to rural areas take a number of forms, including drones and sensors which provide data on crops and animals, precision farming technologies which improve decision making for agriculture, imaging software which produces visual representations of forestry settings, and autonomous machines which reduce the need for labour on farms. These technologies have the potential to impact positively on many aspects of rural economies, including production, marketing and logistical operations. Moreover, challenges faced by rural communities such as mobility, market access, resource management, health and social services and access to education might be alleviated through the use of digital hardware and software, through improved communications with local and wider networks, service providers and local administrations. Yet despite these potential positive impacts, digitisation also has the potential for negative consequences in rural settings. Poor access to digital technologies in comparison with urban areas can leave rural areas more isolated and marginalised. There is a tendency for mainstream voices to highlight the opportunities of digitisation, while threats tend to be ignored or underestimated. DESIRA aims to close the knowledge gap on the socio-economic impact of digitisation in agriculture, forestry and rural areas. It provides a comprehensive assessment of both opportunities and threats, taking the UN Sustainable Development goals as a point of reference.

Project Objectives

  • To produce a comprehensive conceptual framework of digitisation in rural areas across three domains: agriculture, forestry and rural areas;
  • To conduct a socio-economic analysis of the impacts of digitisation across these three domains to date;
  • To build a comprehensive map across 16 partner countries of digital technologies with the potential to be “digital game changers” in these three domains;
  • To build a large cross-Europe network of experts, policy makers and stakeholders relating to digitisation in rural areas, known as the “Rural Digitisation Forum”;
  • To bring together groups of stakeholders in 16 partner countries to form “Living Labs” which will work together to understand the current and future implications of digitisation across a number of different contexts, relevant to the three domains under analysis;
  • Working with these Living Labs, to conduct scenario development workshops to produce narratives (4 per country) which capture stakeholders’ visions (both positive and negative) of their digital futures;
  • To produce digital storytelling outputs (outputs combining images, audio and video content) which illustrate these scenario narratives;
  • To produce policy recommendations based on the results of the scenario development exercises and Rural Digitisation Forum Meetings.

SEGS Staff involved

Leanne Townsend; Lee-Ann Sutherland; Claire Hardy; Dominic Duckett; Margaret Currie



Project Information
Project Type: 
Active Project


Areas of Interest


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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.