Steinwald alliance – a digital village

© Fraunhofer IIS
The digital village in the Smart Services themed area at our open innovation laboratory JOSEPHS®.

Local amenities, mobility, and health: exploiting the potential of digitalization in rural areas.

Digitalization affects not only businesses but also everyday life. Yet how visible is this development in rural areas, and what form does it take? Digitalization has great potential to improve access to local amenities, mobility, and healthcare in rural areas.

This also happens to be the aim of the Digital Village project, which has been funded by the Bavarian State Government since April 2017. In the Steinwald Alliance in the Oberpfalz district, our Center for Applied Research on Supply Chain Services SCS is working with the Fraunhofer Institute for Experimental Software Engineering IESE to develop a »mobile village store« that will provide access to local amenities in remote parts of the municipality. At the heart of the mobile village store is a platform that links up residents, producers, and a brick-and-mortar village store. The platform forms the basis for a series of applications, such as an online shop for ordering products, an app for managing stock, and a route-planning app.

The platform is complemented by a sales vehicle that travels to parts of the municipality lacking local amenities. The vehicle carries a basic range of everyday goods, with a particular focus on regional products, as well as goods ordered in advance. At least as important as the operational infrastructure of the mobile village store are its economic viability and acceptance by the local community. For this reason, care has been taken since the very start of the project to develop a sustainable business model. A roadshow was also held to ask residents about their needs in relation to the mobile village store, and all households have been surveyed with regard to Internet use and shopping habits.

The mobile village store will go online – and hit the road – in mid-2018. In parallel, we are already working on further applications aimed at improving everyday life in the Steinwald Alliance, such as a digital village communication system for sharing information and providing assistance, or a digital housing advice service.