DESIRA (Digitisation: Economic and Social Impacts in Rural Areas) is a Horizon 2020 project (2019-2023) coordinated by the University of Pisa which involves 25 partner organisations (research institutes, NGOs and SMEs) in a multi-actor and inter-disciplinary Consortium.

The project aims to improve the capacity of society and political bodies to respond to the challenges that digitalisation generates in agriculture, forestry and rural areas.

The Consortium will work in an integrated manner to achieve the following project-specific objectives:

The project approaches all activities considering digitalisation as a process of social transformation driven by digital technologies. It acknowledges the transformative nature of digitalisation and the impacts it can have in shaping the way rural communities and actors learn, work, travel, interact, etc., acting as a ‘game changer’ for rural territories and sectors.

The digital transformation of rural areas generates winners (who benefit from the change), but also losers (who are marginalised by the change), as well as opponents (who resist to change) and proponents (who support or advocate for the change).

To reap the benefits and reduce the risks associated with digitalisation, rural communities need to improve their capacity of understanding the impacts and changes in their context and to develop and plan appropriate actions in order to adapt. Sustainable digitalisation is key to minimise the costs and maximise the benefits of digital transformation, contributing to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The analytical work is conceptualised on the basis of the interconnection between society, plant and/or animals (Social, beings), data (Cyber, software) and things (Physical, Hardware) within the rural systems or contexts.

The Socio-Cyber-Physical Systems might display different configurations in each rural area due to the interaction of three aspects: i) conditions for accessing technologies, ii) design of the digital solution, iii) complexity of the overall system. Understanding the socio-economic impacts, the different configurations and their interplay will help rural communities to design sustainable digitalisation pathways.