The Urban-Rural Divide – is the countryside left behind?

Source: https://connection.asco.org/

Unfortunately, the answer seems to be „yes“ in many ways – despite booming innovation in agricultural technologies for instance. Even though these are stereotypes, life is slower, less complicated in the countryside. The main issues that drive innovation for „Smart Cities“ simply do not apply for rural areas. Dense traffic, air pollution and such are not key problems. Also the people ask themselves „why do I need this“ much more frequently. While the people in Cities are not only faster paced with innovation and new trends, they also are more targeted for new stuff. Which is why innovation is propelled in Cities while innovators very often don’t even consider looking at rural areas. Where are new apps and tech products launched? Never in the rural world, mostly in big cities. Because people adopt new trends and tech quicker, have a higher affinity. And also just because there are more people there, in one place.

During my past activities I always tried to keep the dialogue going and to look at the needs of the people in less densely populated areas. Because they do not match those of the people in city centers. Their schedules look different. Their commute to work is different. Their shopping behavior is different. Their consumption of services, healthcare and the likes is different. And I always said that if a new digital service or product wants to be truly game changing and relevant, it needs to cater for both – the city people and the rural folks as well. Otherwise what is being created is an island-solution that does not work for the entire population. And that would widen the gap even more.

Another experience I made is that people in small towns and villages are much harder to convince to use digital services. Personal contact is more important. Also the demographics may play a role – audiences in cities are generally younger. I do not know if education plays a role, but the young, highly educated are also likely to be in densely populated areas.

I would see this as a chance and positive challenge when building digital products and services. Why not involve the people in rural areas? When they are convinced and love the product, it will surely work even better in the cities? The same applies to older audiences. Why not involve those in the development process to get their input and feedback? A great product is intuitive, does what it is supposed to and caters to people regardless of where they live or how old they are. (I know, this is a generalization).

Also, products and services designed for the City audience, that then end at the city limits, are not quite smart – how about those „inbetweeners“, that live in the commuter-belt of large cities? This applies for me. I live within the city limits of Hamburg, but many „smart services“ are not available because the population is not dense enough here in what some people call the „green hell“, suburbia. Car sharing is one. But pretty much any mobility services except for the good old taxi are not available. If you cross the city line into the neighboring state just a few 100 meters away, things get worse. Also this widens the gap between these areas as people living in rural areas would not sign up for such „city services“ – even when they come to the city. The list of examples is much longer than this.

In this context, I found a document written by people from Bertelsmann Stiftung for the G20 summit in Japan earlier this year, which I thought is worth sharing: „SOCIAL COHESION, GLOBAL GOVERNANCE AND THE FUTURE OF POLITICS The Urban-Rural Divide and Regionally Inclusive Growth in the Digital Age“.

You find it here. 

Generally, I think that when you google for „smart cities“ or the equivalent for rural areas, you find a ton of stuff for smart cities but quite little on the countryside. We should bear that in mind because the disparity is poison and can cause massive frictions and problems in the future.

 

WEF: How Europe can build a Silicon Valley

wef_0There is lots of intelligence at the World Economic Forum – but this piece I like in particular for many reasons. Mostly, because it is honest and realistic. It simply just does not work that some city or metropolitan area tries to be the „Silicon Valley of XYZ“ by proclamation. Too many ingredients make the actual Silicon Valley what it is and next to public-private partnership and the close-tied web of relations, the cluster, the special openness to change, itarations and – yes – failure. Adoption of change and embracing of change. And let´s be fair, also the Silicon Valley is subject to change and has been time and time again. Currently the hottest companies leave the traditional „Silicon Valley“, named after the Semiconductor-Companies there, to be headquartered im San Francisco. So really we should talk about the greater San Francisco Bay Area. There will not be two areas of this kind on this planet, because you simply cannot replicate everything AND fill it with life, just because it is a political will. And especially this won´t work for a city or even one single European nation. So I like the analysis provided in this great article of the World Economic Forum: How Europe can build a Silicon Valley. 

Great Summary by ValueWalk: The Stripe Ecosystem In One Giant Visualization

valuewalkSometimes it is hard to get to a core of a phenomenon – and then it is good that someone spends some time thinking it through and putting it into simple terms. Now, ValueWalk has done just that with the Stripe-Phenomenon. I believe reading this is time well spent. You find the article here.

This is the way: Luxembourg gives Innovation easy access to Money

One thing I never quite managed to wrap my head around is the way financing for start-ups works. Well, yeah – I understand how it works and why it works like that. But fact is: A start-up and it´s visionary leaders, taking personal risks to move it forward, should focus on their business entirely and push it towards success. Instead they struggle to get to the next finance round and pay for the essentials.

Markets which make it easy to access funds to grow a business, from my point of view, got it right. It should be easy for small businesses to finance innovation and growth and when a local government is supporting that in a relevant way, thats even better.

In that sense: great initiative in Luxembourg these days, with a deal between the European Funds for Strategic Investments (EFSI) and BNP Paribas in Luxembourg for lending cheap money to innovative SMBs in the marketplace. EFSI pretty much is a tool of the EU Commission to boost innovation and jobs. So say something that the EU is a bad thing. It is not. You can read how good it really is on the EU Commissions website.

Full details on the Luxembourg deal can be found here.

 

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