Officially welcomed by Mr. Jan Philipp Albrecht (Minister of Energy, Agriculture, the Environment, Nature and Digitalization of the Federal State of Schleswig-Holstein), CORA project partners discussed their achievements and exchanged their findings and progress with a great number of stakeholders from the North Sea Region.

Organized by atene KOM, the CORA annual conference kicked off on 13 November 2018 in Kiel by Minister Jan Philipp Albrecht with a focus on the importance of connectivity for rural digital transformation in the State of Schleswig Holstein. The minister emphasized on the importance of future proof broadband infrastructure and digital services in rural areas as the backbone of smarter regions in northern Germany and all over the North Sea Region. It was great for the CORA project partners to achieve such a high level commitment and realize the importance of their project activities towards bridging the rural digital divide in the North Sea Region.

The CORA Story

Following the opening remarks of minister Albrecht, the participants were led through the CORA story, where the project background, concept, targets as well as pilot activities were presented with active participation of all project member regions. The story pointed out once again the importance of rural digital divide as a common challenge in the North Sea Region and emphasized on the commitment of all project partners to test innovative solutions to overcome this complex challenge.

During the next session of the annual conference, the participants discussed interactively the main dimensions of the CORA project. Three thematic discussions were designed, each focusing on one dimension of the CORA methodology. The interactive discussions aimed at involving the CORA stakeholders and integrating their insights around the following topics:

  • Overcoming barriers to the availability and uptake of internet services in rural areas as well as identifying solutions and approaches, which local and regional authorities can implement to improve the level of availability and uptake of NGA in their region
  • Overcoming barriers to improve the level of digital skills among communities as well as identifying solutions and approaches which local and regional authorities can use to improve the level of digital skills in their region
  • Exchanging the main factors for establishing, running and networking successful local and regional hubs in rural areas

After three rounds of intensive discussions, several recommendations for guiding measures and training were aggregated and presented to the stakeholders, which will be integrated to the CORA e-learning platform in a following step.

Examples from Germany

In the second part of the conference three thematic presentations were delivered from good experiences in Germany, each focusing on one dimension of rural digital transformation.

  • Dimension One: Future proof digital infrastructure
    Christian Zieske (German Federal Broadband Bureau) gave an insight on the German Federal Funding Programme on Broadband with an ambition towards developing a nationwide future proof digital infrastructure.
  • Dimension two: Future proof digital services
    Mathias Phillip (Authority of Hüttener Berge) presented the integrated concept of Hüttener Berge in creating a digital services dashboard for local communities in the region as part of their digital agenda.
  • Dimension three: Future proof digital skills
    Marc Richau (IT representative of the city of Norderstedt) introduced the digital services planning and provision approach for Norderstedt and emphasized on the importance of digital skills for local communities and the local enterprises as well as local public authorities themselves.

Results

The result of discussions during the day was a verification on the CORA project approach for creating smarter regions and bridging the rural digital divide. All stakeholders committed to the importance of local and regional authorities’ mission to develop a dynamic environment for digital transformation in rural areas. They emphasized that such a digitally enabled environment requires a future proof superfast broadband network, but also responsive digital services and adequate digital skills of communities, enterprises and public authorities.

Prior to the CORA annual conference, the project partners participated in the second CORA project partner meeting on 12 November 2018 and exchanged the progress of their activities with each other. This was followed by a one day excursion to Hüttener Berge on the next day with the aim of introducing the planned digital services activities for tourism purposes in the area. 

About CORA – COnnecting Remote Areas with digital infrastructure and services

Digital divide across rural areas of the North Sea region is limiting their attractiveness for families and businesses. This phenomenon represents a market failure, as infrastructural investment is not adequately delivered to rural areas due to high financial risks. As a result rural areas often need external incentives and support, when it comes to technological adoption and digital transformation. Against this background, the CORA project helps local authorities to identify their common challenges and empowers them to exchange experiences and test innovative solutions to create an advanced digital environment. During the project lifetime, ten regions will demonstrate one or more dimensions of digitalization according to their baselines and local priorities by 2020.


Photo top: Project partners und stakeholders, CORA Annual Conference, Kiel (Germany), 13 November 2018.
Photo credits: atene KOM GmbH