Germany’s villages and rural areas are affected by the impact of demographic change and rural exodus. This trend constitutes a major challenge: What will our village look like when the population gets older and older? Will young people and families still move to our village? Can we maintain our infrastructure with buses, stores, and health care? Will there still be companies in rural areas? In the project “Digital Villages”, the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE shows how digitalization opens up new opportunities for rural areas: Which concepts will help to revive rural areas and villages and keep them attractive for their residents, whether young or old?
The challenge faced by all new ideas is space: In cities, where many people live together in the smallest of spaces, different issues need to be tackled than in rural areas. Here, the challenge is primarily to bridge the distances among a rather small number of people. Correspondingly, rural areas require different concepts, solutions, and business models.
Rural areas need attractive conditions: economic, social, cultural, and ecological ones. Their importance for life and work, business and culture in Germany is often underestimated: Rural areas form the basis for our supply with food and energy. This is where the majority of the German population lives and where many small and medium-sized enterprises are located. Rural areas also offer a place for recreation.
In the next two years, Fraunhofer IESE will collaborate with two test regions in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate, the municipality of Betzdorf in Altenkirchen County as well as the municipalities of Eisenberg and Göllheim in Donnersberg County, to study and develop solutions for integrating mobility and logistics with smart technology in order to create added value for people and companies.
What is conceivable and what will ultimately be feasible, and where investments and new business ideas will pay off is being simulated and tested in the project “Digital Villages”. As “Digital Villages”, the two model regions have the chance to become pioneers for Rhineland-Palatinate and for Germany in matters related to digitalization and to demonstrate how smart our rural areas can be in the future!
The project “Digital Villages” is intended to provide an impulse for making rural areas fit for the future. In terms of perspective, existing systems, in particularly, must smartly interact with each other and function in a coordinated manner. Software is used to interconnect mobility and logistics systems, to combine services from different areas, and to create great added value for everyone. Being able to design this in a safe, reliable, and user-friendly way as well as in a sustainable and economically feasible manner requires expertise in the design, analysis, and mastering of smart software systems. This is where the competencies of Fraunhofer IESE come into play. Together we will thus be able in the future to meet the challenges with cross-domain solutions!