The process of urban sprawl, i.e., the expansion of the city in the peri-urban buffer zone to the detriment of agricultural and natural land, has long been known. The failure to consider rural and suburban areas in the smart revolution has created a greater imbalance in the built environment. The creation of smart villages could address several challenges. This is a crucial aspect that could stem conventional migration from villages to cities, which is putting pressure on urban infrastructure and having a substantial social impact. Balanced outcomes across urban and rural are a vital objective of sustainable development that leaves no one behind. To reduce the inequality between rural and urban areas, it is crucial to ensure that development benefits are shared broadly and equitably, which is still a challenging issue requiring attention.
The emerging concept of smart villages refers to rural areas and communities which build on their existing strengths and assets as well as on developing new opportunities. In smart villages, traditional and new networks and services are enhanced using digital technologies, innovations, and the better use of knowledge to benefit inhabitants and businesses. Smart villages are self-sufficient and self-reliant villages with the empowerment of the workforce (rural youth) through locally available natural resources and appropriate rural technologies as per definition by the Institute of Science (IISc).
It can be seen that, in general, a “smart approach” is mainly about the use of technology for more efficient and sustainable development. The basic building blocks of “smartness” should include access to services such as high-quality education, healthcare, finance, ICTs, clean water and sanitation, and improved livelihoods.
Guiding Principles for urban-rural linkages:
The Role of Infrastructure and Energy
Africa is urbanizing rapidly; in the majority of countries, 65 to 70 percent of the population still live in rural areas. As per United Nations, the rural population in Africa reached 740 million in 2018. This was 57.5 percent of the total population.
In the prepared for smartness, the role of Infrastructure and energy is essential. Energy has the potential to be a catalyst for rural development. In many cases, the first energy-related priority in rural villages is to have lighting and the ability to charge phones. These are important developments in education and communication, but an actual smart village must go beyond these initial priorities.
In healthcare, clinics require much more light than a home, and, in this case, electricity from solar panels can support to give more lighting to ensure that childbirth, for example, is safer. To store vaccines and other essential medication that needs to remain cool, refrigeration is also important.
Entrepreneurship is an essential element of a smart village. In the case of Terrat village in Tanzania, the Maasai community was able to make money from the milk produced by their traditional cattle by making cheese and yogurt. Behind Terrat’s dairy production is energy; a village mini-grid distributes electricity generated from jatropha-derived biofuel, which powers the modified shipping container housing their micro-dairy.
Economic and Social Values of Taobao Villages
Asia, the largest continent in the world, also has the highest number of populations at 4 billion, which is approximately 60% of the world’s total population. More than half of Asia’s people live in rural areas, with most of them still engaged in agriculture.
E-commerce in China has developed at extraordinary speed in recent years with the rise of e-commerce giants of global significance. Benefiting from e-commerce expansion, some clusters of e-commerce activity have also appeared in rural China and have come to be known as “Taobao villages.”
The rise of rural e-tailers has changed the economic ecology of Taobao villages. Rural e-tailers usually harness local resources and use the e-commerce platform to sell local agricultural products, traditional handicrafts or manufactured goods obtained from nearby wholesale markets. New job opportunities arose, including graphic design, photography, express delivery services, goods storage, IT technicians, etc.
With the development and expansion of online merchants, their demands for e-commerce services have gradually expanded and diversified. Promoting the upgrading of e-commerce services from small scale to large scale, from singularity diversification, and from a scattered model to a clustered one, thus gradually becoming systemized. The systematization of e-commerce services is a significant mark of the upgrading and development of Taobao villages.
Technology-enabled approach to Farming Management
A huge proportion of the population lives in rural areas in India. The situation is persisting for a long time thus, the Ministry of Rural Development developed a programme named Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM). The mission aims to provide people with reasons to stay in villages rather than move to the cities. Digital technology can empower farmers to collect information in the field. It allows farmers to monitor each plot of land in the future to determine precisely what crop they need to produce to thrive, with reduced usage of resources for cultivation.
Smart connectivity has two distinct implications for the smart village concept. One is to provide reliable and high-quality broadband and voice communications. The second is a range of information and communication technology solutions, applications, and services. These act as integral parts of smart technology solutions.
Precision Agriculture (PA) is a technology-enabled approach to farming management that observes, measures and analyses the needs of individual fields and crops. It allows farmers to apply tailored care and manage water more effectively, boosts production, improves economic efficiency, and minimizes waste and environmental impact. It uses a system of IoT sensors, mobile communications, big data, and analytics in the cloud. They all combine to help farmers use more precise amounts of fertilizer, water, and other resources.
Applying a smart approach to rural areas can be a systemic strategy to reduce disparities through integrated development. The following measures should be carried out:
National government:- Smart villages can be included in the strategic planning of the country to enhance the liveability of rural areas and then better achieve the coordinated development of urban and rural areas.
Regional authorities:- More detailed development goals based on local contexts should be targeted and can be supported financially and facilitated through policy. They can determine the development phases of a smart village and correspond.
Local Administration:- At the village level, the local administration is the key link between the superior development plans and the villagers. The village government can learn the smart development plan and implements the fieldwork under the guidance of higher government and relevant supporting bodies.
The article is based on the report:
FROM SMART CITIES TO SMART VILLAGES STRENGTHENING URBAN-RURAL LINKAGES THROUGH SMART APPROACHES