Rural perspectives on digital innovation: Experiences from small enterprises in the Nordic countries and Latvia

Digitalisation holds considerable potential for rural areas. It offers the promise of overcoming geographical distance, ensuring equal access to opportunity regardless of where people live. At the same time, rural and sparsely populated areas are thought to lag behind their urban counterparts when it comes to the provision of digital infrastructure and the development of digital knowledge and skills. These urban-rural disparities are often referred to as the digital divide and can prevent rural communities from unlocking the opportunities associated with digitalisation.

This project explored strategies to overcome the digital divide, with a focus on increasing the competitiveness of small rural enterprises through digital innovation. It dealt with this theme in general as well as looking in-depth at three key rural sectors: the bioeconomy, sustainable tourism and the manufacturing sector. The project included desk-based research, a series of workshops held in rural locations around the Nordic-Baltic Region and a webinar series. It 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).