RegenerAction 2022: Digital communities connecting to cooperate

The Challenge: Ensuring an inclusive digital transition

📢 In the face of the challenges triggered by the Covid pandemic and the current food, health, and environmental crises, ensuring a just, equitable, inclusive, and ethical digital transition is an unquestioned priority.

Why it's important: Technology as a catalyst for opportunities

❗ The pandemic has highlighted the many challenges that the world still faces: making the relationship between humanity and the Earth more balanced and efficient, promoting forms of widespread and collective prosperity without leaving anyone behind, restoring the link between individuals and their communities and between communities and their lands, promoting greater transparency and trust. All aspects in which technology can be an incredible enabling tool. The digital transition, whose scope and potential have been accelerated by the pandemic, is not a utopia, nor the random result of the development of new technologies, but a path sought and desired for its countless benefits.

A digital world can offer services and opportunities to its citizens and especially to those who inhabit inland areas or live particularly distant from historical centers, it can increase the efficiency of resources and thus help reduce the impact of humanity on Earth, ensuring greater transparency, decentralizing networks and giving back voice to citizens and supply chains.

In recent years, innovations in the digital sphere have paved the way for several improvements, starting with the agricultural sector, where the potential of technology 4.0 shows its greatest benefits not only in economic terms or through resource maximization, but also benefits related to human health and created by sustainable, efficient, and balanced processes. At the same time, the pandemic has highlighted the challenges of the digital transition, such as ensuring universal access to digital tools and data – crucial aspects to prevent technology from becoming a vehicle for inequalities, rather than connections.

According to the data reported by ISTAT (National Institute of Statistics), one family out of three, in Italy, does not own a computer or a tablet. The lack of adequate infrastructure to accommodate new digital solutions and the high rates of digital illiteracy are real problems that stand in the way of the transition to a digital society. In our country, 25% of Italians do not habitually use the internet, a percentage that doubles globally, considering that almost half of the world’s population is still offline. All these issues are worsened by the ethical issues related to the advancement of artificial intelligence and robotization, which inevitably alter the global labor market.

The EU Strategy: accelerating a transition for the sake of the planet and the people

🇪🇺 Ensuring a democratic, inclusive, and sustainable digital transition is an integral part of the European Union policy. In 2019, the new European Commission of Ursula von der Leyen included the digital transition in the list of its six priorities. The European Union is looking at the digital world by keeping a focus on the citizens’ interests, providing concrete support to businesses, and promoting real environmental protection with the help of digital tools, which are all necessary to ensure Europe’s climate neutrality by 2050.

Regulation and protection of digital data, artificial intelligence, digital identity, and market policies are some of the issues on which the Union has worked in recent years to facilitate the transition to a digital and sustainable society during the so-called “digital decade.” On 19 March 2021, on the occasion of the European Digital Day, EU member countries signed a joint declaration of commitment to accelerate the digital transition through a series of initiatives that echo the goals set by the Commission. Among the various initiatives promoted are, for example, the commitment to develop a digital model of the Earth, called “Twin Earth” capable of predicting the possible future scenarios of our planet, together with the design and production of eco-friendly products.

However, the digital transition should not only take into account the environment but also the citizens. It is in this perspective that events in favor of digital literacy are carried out annually, such as the All Digital Week, a global event that aims to highlight the countless possibilities that the digital world can offer us. In fact, technology today represents an increasingly significant part of innovation, as demonstrated by the many projects promoted by the European Institute for Innovation and Technology (EIT), including, for example, the DigiFresh project, which uses advanced technologies to monitor the state of food preservation to improve products’ quality, reduce economic losses and food waste, and increase consumer satisfaction.

Also in terms of 4.0 Agriculture, the European Union is pressing and investing in the application of digital tools to modernize infrastructure while maintaining a constant dialogue with farmers and implementing new legislation and criteria in support of the 4.0 Industry (and Agriculture).

Seeds of Change: through digitalization to increase safety, transparency, and services

🌱 The Future Food Institute has been accompanying the EU on the complex path of digital transition for years, promoting and investing in hybrid (online-offline) training programs through our Boot Camps and hackathons, where digital solutions are used to tackle real environmental problems.

For Future Food, technology is a medium that stands and justifies itself through culture and people. Pollica’s Paideia Campus is a living example of the intersection between the digital and human dimensions. By valorizing the properties and values of the Mediterranean Diet, the project “Pollica 2050 – Mediterranean Living,” developed in collaboration with the Municipality of Pollica, aims to create a model of Integral Ecological Regeneration that knows how to make use of all the resources.

In achieving this goal, accelerating the digital transition is no longer just the lever needed to achieve a true Green Deal, but also the right tool to encourage a cultural transition capable of empowering the community, maximizing the potential of innovative sectors such as digital medicine, and ensuring transparency and security. Putting digital tools at the service of people means overcoming logistical and bureaucratic barriers and providing services that respond to the real needs of citizens. During the crisis we are currently living, technology also plays an active role in diplomacy and international cooperation. The planning of the new Lab of Peace, that will be developed in Pollica together with Dot Academy, aims at providing digital training courses for young people and women escaping from the war in Ukraine to facilitate their integration into the local job market and community.

Culture is also part of the digital transition. One visible proof is the Digital Museum of the Mediterranean Diet which, thanks to the valuable contribution of MedEatResearch, collects in digital format, the stories and the memories of the territory linked to the values and concept of the Mediterranean Diet. Future Food Institute is also one of the first entities to translate the potential of technology into the regeneration of local territories, as demonstrated by the Pollica Digital Week (25 -31 March 2022) during which, as part of the European All Digital Week, a series of formative workshops related to digital innovation and its role in the cultural, economic, and social recovery of the territory were organized.

At the moment, Italy still has room for improvement to align the country with the European strategies for the development and application of 4.0 technologies in the agricultural sector.  In this sense, the partnership with the EIT Test Farms program, which connects European startups to local farmers’ networks, is crucial to encouraging innovative processes. By facilitating and prototyping, EIT aims to create a fertile ground for the development of technology that can place the Italian agricultural landscape at pace with the challenges that the ecological and digital transition pose.

As a core element of the European revolution, technology will be a theme that crosscuts the AgriFood Week events, while being specifically addressed in the panel “Bridging the Digital Divide in Agriculture.”

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