Official kickoff for Digital Villages 2.0

Press Release / 24.4.2017

Following today’s presentation of the funding decisions by the Interior Minister of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate, Roger Lewentz, the project “Digital Villages” enters the second round. The project demonstrates how innovative solutions can be used in a sensible way to use the opportunities offered by digitization in rural areas as well. The “Digital Villages” are a joint project of the Ministry of the Interior and for Sport, of the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE, Kaiserslautern, of the Rhineland-Palatinate Development Agency, and of the Rhineland-Palatinate municipalities Betzdorf-Gebhardshain, Eisenberg, and Göllheim.

© Fraunhofer IESE

Bernd Frey, Prof. Liggesmeyer, Interior Minister Roger Lewentz, Steffen Antweiler, Bernd Brato

During the first project phase from 2015 to 2016, Fraunhofer IESE evaluated concepts for the networking of citizens through digital technology in the sense of modern neighborhood support in the digital villages Betzdorf-Gebhardshain, Eisenberg, and Göllheim. Together with the citizens, companies, the municipalities, and the Development Agency, the researchers developed digital applications and examined the interaction among businesses, volunteers, and public administration. In the words of Prof. Dr.-Ing. Peter Liggesmeyer, Executive Director of Fraunhofer IESE: “In the context of the research program Smart Rural Areas, Fraunhofer IESE is studying how the potential in rural areas can be exploited better. Even the first project phase already showed us in a real context that digital technology promotes sharing among citizens, companies, and municipalities, and has a positive impact on interaction among the involved stakeholders. With the continuation of the project ‘Digital Villages 2.0’, we will test more use cases in the next few years.”

The test regions, which are also taking part in the second project phase, can once again contribute their own wishes and ideas during the planning phase, so that the project will only be about specific local issues. The way the project is designed means that the citizens will be involved in the design locally, in so-called Living Labs. Possible topics will deal with digital solutions in the areas of communication, life in the village, mobile offers in rural areas, and decentralized services in the sense of a “Village Center 2.0”. “It is one of our trademarks in Rhineland-Palatinate that we connect state-of-the-art research with local needs, as in the case of the ‘Digital Villages’”, explained the Rhineland-Palatinate Interior Minister Roger Lewentz. The second phase “Digital Villages 2.0” will be funded by the Interior Ministry for the period 2017 to 2019. The municipalities will receive a total of 360,000 euros together. The research of Fraunhofer IESE will be funded with 1.35 million euros. The institute will contribute a similar amount. The Rhineland-Palatinate Development Agency will contribute 100,000 euros worth of staff costs.

“That we are on the right path both in terms of the topic and in terms of the project organization can be seen, on the one hand, in the great interest expressed by other German states to copy the ‘Digital Villages’ and, on the other hand, by the great commitment of the local citizens”, added Minister Lewentz. A major lesson learned for the work of his ministry is the realization that digitization is not the solution, but is rather becoming an important instrument of municipal development, which always requires commitment from the local public administration. “What will ultimately be crucial, therefore, is not to have as many technically sophisticated solutions as possible, but rather to implement them with the people, to their benefit”, said Lewentz when he presented the funding decision documents.