Potentials and Strategies of Digital Regional Development in Rural Areas [HeiDi]

Symbolic picture for the article. The link opens the image in a large view.

Potentials and Strategies of Digital Regional Development in Rural Areas
[Heimat Digital (HeiDi): Potenziale und Strategien digitaler Regionalentwicklung im ländlichen Raum]

Principal Investigators: Tobias Chilla, Stephan Kröner

Staff: Carola Wilhelm, Lisa Birnbaum
Period: 2020-2023
Funding: Federal Office for Agriculture and Food


Recent developments in digitization may be seen as threats, however, they also provide the opportunity to foster a positive relationship of people with their communities (place attachment) via participatory regional development. This may be particularly positive for sustainable development of rural areas at risk of demographic decline. The project’s aim is to synthesize, systematize and analyse Europe-wide examples of ‘good practice’ related to digital strategies and instruments on this issue. These examples will be compiled, resulting in an orientation framework that is being made available in the form of a digital toolbox for further use in regional development.

The research questions are: how can digitization contribute to a positive interpretation of rural areas or rural identification? How can the potential of digitization be used for participatory regional development? In particular, how can place attachment be strengthened? And how may contributors only digitally present be involved? How can place attachment counter depopulation and migration? And how can digital tools be used to successfully address pivotal challenges of rural regions such as brain drain and youth drain? Which strategies have already been successfully pursued based on such questions? What criteria of good practice for participatory digital regional development result from examples available in Europe?

By addressing these questions, the project will provide a deeper insight into patterns and processes of place attachment in times of digitization and demographic change. At the same time, it provides a toolbox for the target-oriented design of programs for rural regions. Given the lower carbon footprint of rural populations, this also contributes to sustainable development.