DESIRA project brings digital technologies to forests and rural areas

A new EU-funded project aims to improve the capacity of society and political bodies to respond to the challenges that digitisation generates in forestry, agriculture and rural areas.

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DESIRA project kick-off meeting. Photo: PEFC Italy

The DESIRA (Digitisation: Economic and Social Impacts on Rural Areas) research initiative is a four-year Horizon 2020 project coordinated by the University of Pisa that brings together 25 academic and civil society organisations from across sectors and disciplines, including PEFC Italy.

DESIRA wants to build a knowledge and methodological base that makes it easier to assess the past, current and future socio-economic impacts of ICT-related innovation. It seeks to embed responsible research and innovation into researchers’, developers’ and users’ practices and policies, and looks to offer mechanisms and tools that will support decision-making on challenges and opportunities related to digitisation. These and other goals are to be carried out by:

  • Mobilising a network of rural businesses and services, public authorities, citizen groups, digital technology operators, farmers, media and academics which will be organised together in 20 Living Labs and one EU-level Rural Digitisation Forum (RDF). Three of those Living Labs will be expressly related to the forestry sector: wood traceability and EUTR in Italy and Austria and forest fires in Spain.
  • Building a Conceptual and Analytical Framework and a Taxonomy and Inventory of Digital Game Changers based upon the concept of a Socio-Cyber-Physical System
  • Drafting a participatory indicator-based method for impact assessment of past, current and future digitisation trends, according to the principles of Responsible Research and Innovation and aligned with the Sustainable Development
  • Developing 80 digitisation scenarios and communicating them through digital storytelling
  • Producing 5 Use Cases, and Showcase technologies including a virtual reality Virtual Farm Platform for ICT-based solutions to emerging rural/agricultural/forestry problems
  • Producing a Policy Analysis, a Roadmap and an Ethical Code
  • Using a Virtual Research Environment to boost the potential of participatory research

DESIRA will initially carry out a compilation of the most relevant and innovative actors within the concept of Socio-Cyber-Physical Systems. The aim is to come up with a taxonomy and inventory of digital game changers. The first step is to gain a solid understanding of “the game” – the variables involved and the context – and then to identify the main stakeholders in the digitisation landscape who are capable of bringing about notable change to rural areas. The end of the project is planned in year 2023.

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