Village Innovation Summit







Village Innovation Summit

to go to the ongoing event, click /Organisation or VillageInnovationTalk (German).

to read about the background, continue here.

Connecting villages globally – broadband as an enabler of rural development

A concept paper in progress by John Broomfield and Dagmar Eisenbach and Franz Nahrada

1. Objective

Support village leaders in the implementation of sustainable local projects by providing them with the ability to access and exchange contacts, knowledge and tools through an international village network.

The concept is to support local community development by combining local innovation and the technologies and infrastructure that enable global cooperation with the best of business tools and processes.

Rather than reinventing the wheel this should be achieved by partnering with existing networks such as Global Villages Network.

Based on the experience of successful projects existing knowledge and ideas can be adapted to the needs of other villages, accelerating implementation and increasing the likelihood of success. An Open Source approach will be taken to both social and commercial projects with any IP generated within the network freely available for commercial use (e.g. GPL/BSD/MIT license). Success will be measured by how many villages contribute to the growth of the network by sharing ideas, knowledge and experience and how many use the capabilities of the network to implement sustainable projects or improve existing ones.

Discussion on 1. Objective

Franz Nahrada The point is that we need to explain why do we target villages, what are villages for us.

Villages are not only places with future, villages are also places where certain innovations happen that add tremendously to this future.

Targeting Villages means to seriously address the integrated development of rural areas. We think that the city is not the only habitat of the future; a balance and cooperation between rural and urban is desired and must take a new form, if urban population should be motivated to focus their lives in rural areas; and the local level is of overall importance.

Villages do not equal agriculture, but they equal a different way of living, a choice, which includes a stronger relation with landscape, nature and people themselves.

We must clearly state that the village in its current form is increasingly deteriorating when it comes to the provision of services and support systems. Small urban centers that can be reached by car are not the complete answer to the problem, many things can and need to be implemented on a much more decentralized base.

Personal, face2face cooperation and cohabitation has an enormous potential if blended with technological and intellectual capacities.

The goal of the project should be the evolution of villages to more holistic life support systems.

There are three backbones:

  • The evolution of agriculture to the management of flows and cycles in a habituable ecology
  • The integration and positioning of roles and functions in a complementing way that suffices the needs of all generations and life situations, the reinvention of intelligent crafts and services.
  • The strategic combination of external support systems in strong centers that favor local encounter, learning and diversity. Its not enough to call them telecenters, its rather also a village cinema, party place, etc. We should adopt the Peruvian Word Rimaywasi, which means "house of talking" to characterize this combination of global and local encounter.
We are not only taking an Open Source approach, but also a Commons approach which means that we want to instigate communities that care and improve shared knowledge and also make it useful for more and more people to participate.

2. Key areas of focus

While many factors contributing to rural development can be identified our focus is on the following key knowledge areas:

  1. Renewable energy
  2. Broadband connectivity
  3. Environment & Sustainability
  4. Regeneration of villages and migration considerations
While the four initial stages leading to the Village Innovation Summit, and the summit itself, focus on what is necessary to build capacity it is expected that one of the key outcomes of the summit will be to start identifying the tools, processes and ideas required to enable the implementation of sustainable projects in some of the communities represented there.

This can be visualized as follows:

Discussion on 2. Key areas of focus

Franz Nahrada

I think that we need to specify the fourth area.

"Regeneration of villages and migration considerations" means mainly 3 things:

* A new structure of professions and a truly active local economy (by innovations in technology and social innovations)
* Meeting the needs of all generations in the way the village serves itself ((by innovations in technology and social innovations)
* Attracting urban professionals and giving them opportunities to cluster and cooperate locally (Coworking entrepreneurship, rural hubs)

In general we must lay out that we think of technical, structural and social innovations.

We could also say that our areas of focus are:

* The local infrastructure in terms of service ways (energy, transportation, material cycles)
* The local economy (principle of collaborative complementarity)
* The local knowledge base (educational revolution by broadband connections and shared content)
* The local society (interplay of generations and voluntary activities)
* The global positioning of villages (in their microregion, region, collaboration with urban support centers, supraregional village networks)

3. Situation

Globalization with all its pluses and minuses has demonstrated its limits in terms of providing opportunities for rural communities.

  • net migration to cities over the last decades which is set to continue.
  • price of oil and pump prices place an ever increasing burden on commuters.
  • increasing energy costs, often exacerbated by older less energy efficient housing stock
  • increased cost of transportation and logistics also increases prices of goods & services
  • lack of adequate infrastructure (broadband, transport etc.) limit the competitiveness of rural areas in situations where they may otherwise have an advantage or at least be competitive
Combined with lower real wages in a rural setting this can have a substantial effect on disposable income and perceived quality of life, which, when combined with a lack of suitable or attractive local employment and educational opportunities does little to help to stem the flow of outward migration.

In addition it could be argued that all development ultimately happens on a local level and an effective broadband infrastructure goes some way in compensating for the lack physical proximity which drives innovation when it reaches critical mass.

Discussion on 3. Situation

Franz Nahrada

We must clearly express that we also favor a Trend Against Globalisation, because globalisation in economic terms means erosion of standards and infrastructures, enormous overcapacities, almost definite risks of "losing the battle" and wasting wealth.

This is backed up by macroeconomic studies like METIER, where the net effects of introducing broadband infrastructure without adaequate socioeconomic measures has proven to be a loss in wealth.

We need therefore advocate strategies of selective globalisation. For example, the community of Wolfsberg in Carinthia is opposing the erection of a large shopping center at the towns outskirts because the inner city already is substantially weakened in its function.

Competition is not the way things work in rural areas, this I learned from DG Competition officials and this is a notion that is not entirely astrange to the European Comission. Of course we do not necessarily want to favor local monopolies either. So the only way to escape this dilemma is to find in each domain the optimum balance of activities and to identify unfair practises. Regulation is not reserved to the national level.

An example would be that the market failure of telcos to provide fiberopics in rural areas might be balanced by a strategy of the public sector (community) or the social sector (initiatives) to create accountable infrastructure themselves and open it up to providers at fair prices (Opan Access Networks).

Concerning local goods and services, the mitigation of competition can be balanced by benchmarking processes which a part of the daily education of local actors. How much does that service cost elsewhere? Why is that so?

Nonmonetary solutions (Local exchange and trading systems, alternative currencies, local service agreements) should be discussed provided there is alternative accounting or a clear balance between the net efficiencies of the system and the overall responsibilities met by the local community thus saving tax money.

4. The challenge

There is a strong need to differentiate between the infrastructure and the “content”. It is the content and awareness of its context that should drive the infrastructure, not the other way around. This means that some degree of analysis or reflection is required before the community arrives at the point where they can say that broadband is the solution to their challenges. The following challenges also need to be addressed;

  • 1. Overcome lack of knowledge of:
    • funding sources
    • legal framework and rules necessary to access funds and implement projects
    • the technical knowledge that is sometimes missing at the beginning of the project.
    • Strategic planning tools
  • 2. Provide an ICT infrastructure adequate to the current and future needs of the community.
  • 3. Define a political and planning process for the rural community project and help the key actors to overcome inertia and deal constructively with opposition. They also need help with creating a decision making process that is both democratic and effective.
  • 4. Connect the “doers”(practitioners) from different villages for mutual learning and encouragement.
Based on a decade of telecenter infrastructure work, the most important learning is that “build it and they will come” is not sufficient to drive the local development and innovation process.

Discussion on 4.The Challenge

Franz Nahrada

I think that this is well said.

We think its about time to form large cooperative structures of knowledge exchange to deal with many societal problems at the bottom level. Local is efficient.

5. The opportunity

Rural development can be accelerated by effective use of broadband infrastructure, combined with knowledge sharing and training supported by existing networks, and the adoption of a common set of tools and processes. This can lead to the creation of a space with a high quality of life and strong social cohesion which makes the rural habitat attractive, - reducing migration to cities.

In addition to the key focus areas noted above the following innovation areas are also important;

  • Enhancing reach and opportunities for existing SME’s
  • SME support services – for example: training, payment processing, access to network for generating new ideas and solving problems
  • Database of advisors – possibly a mentoring program to bridge capability building and implementation phase of programs
  • freeing up of intellectual property under open source commercial use licensing
  • Virtual enterprises or virtual forms of social integration
  • Support for rural start-ups – start up advice and mentoring, access to funding opportunities through the network etc.
  • Access to tools and help with Business Model Generation and testing, Service Design, Business Planning and rapid prototyping methodologies
  • Forming educational networks that share capacity, experience and content
  • Provide a forum where CSO (civil society organizations), public services and SME services can be developed and rolled out
Technical infrastructure such as broadband is a prerequisite to capitalize on these innovations and provide attractive and sustainable living space for future generations. Capability building alone will not suffice. To bridge the time to implementation, a mentoring program between practitioners and newbies should be considered.

Discussion on 5. The opportunity

Franz Nahrada

We might even state clearly that our goal is not only reducing the migration to cities but even having a positive population balance in rural areas, foster migration to villages.

We might state that the proposed forum should emerge at the heart of the permanent local learning process.

6. Key Success factors

In the context of the previous paragraphs and the summit the following key success factors can be identified:

  • Identify areas of innovation for rural development and recruit practitioners from these areas
  • Bring together practitioners to share their experience and create a “repository” of ideas
  • Identify and agree further areas for cooperation and exploration between practitioners and newbie’s (bearing in mind that a “practitioner” in one area may be a “newbie” in another area)
  • Outline a process for accelerating implementation of ideas within the context of a mutually adaptive system
  • Establish database of practitioners who are willing to be contacted and are interested in a potential subsequent village mentoring program
Discussion on 6. Key Success factors

Franz Nahrada:

Great. Let us be open to existing structures and networks, not reinvent the wheel where not necessary.

Proceed to VillageInnovationSummit: PartTwo