Our Smart Village initiative is designed around analyzing key policy recommendations for growing Scotland’s rural communities, and providing the technology platform to implement those recommendations.
Local People Leading
The Scottish Community Alliance is a collaborative consortium of Scotland’s community sector, coming together to define how the sector can grow and develop, a vision published into this report.
The primary recommendations were threefold, defining an overall systemic change that empowers local communities to become more self-reliant, through:
- Local Democracy – Transform local democracy such that communities become central to the planning that impacts them.
- Public Services – Enable more commissioning of public services from local suppliers, and effect the transfer of local assets.
- Grow the Community Sector – Develop self-organising, mutually supportive community networks, and the rebuilding of a national community development infrastructure.
The main thesis is one that the solutions local communities need to address challenges such as economic deprivation and political disenfranchisement will not come ‘from above’, from central government bodies, but will originate from within the communities themselves.
They cite many ways in which local communities are increasingly taking ownership of their own affairs, from land and housing, through their own energy production.
Smart Villages – Platform for Community Empowerment
Smart Villages are intended as a direct enabler and accelerator of this effect, in a multitude of ways.
This is achieved through providing a core foundation of general digital participation and collaboration; Smart Villages equip each small town with their own web site community, with integrated forums for enabling more online participation in their local affairs.
At the most simple level Smart Villages enable every resident to more easily participate online through community forums, a context for ‘Having Your Say’.
This can be integrated with the existing governance and relevant organizations. For example the Biggar site demonstrates how this can provide a feedback tool for the local Community Council.
As usage momentum grows we’ll be adding more powerful features for digital democracy, from simple polls through advanced voting systems. It also includes features like ‘Collaborative Documents‘, such that this combination can provide exactly the tool set that the report calls for:
“Communities must have confidence in the planning system and believe that their input to the process is as valued as that of any other stakeholder. This requires a more equitable planning process, with new procedures ensuring the needs of communities are more fairly weighed alongside other interests. Central to this should be the part played by communities in shaping the content of the local development plan.
Communities and their local partners should be encouraged to draw up locally agreed Community Plans that reflect a collective vision for the future social, physical and economic development of their area.”
Empowering Local Commerce and Services
Furthermore each site is equipped with functionality for providing local artisans with e-commerce stores, and similar features for local service providers to offer online capabilities, such as booking apps, again all within this overall context of local digital community.
This set of apps will enable what the report defines as the ultimate goal:
“this is about encouraging locally controlled and sustainable ways of organising economic activity – local energy, local banking, local currencies, local shops, and so on.”
In short Smart Villages are self-contained ‘digital ecosystems’, that are intended to catalyze and empower this bottom up self-organizing approach, with the tools required for them to become entirely self-reliant.