Drivers, barriers and impacts of digitalisation in rural areas from the viewpoint of experts
Context: The domain of rural areas, including rural communities, agriculture, and forestry, is going through
a process of deep digital transformation. Digitalisation can have positive impacts on sustainability in terms
of greater environmental control, and community prosperity. At the same time, it can also have disruptive
effects, with the marginalisation of actors that cannot cope with the change. When developing a novel system
for rural areas, requirements engineers should carefully consider the specific socio-economic characteristics of
the domain, so that potential positive effects can be maximised, while mitigating negative impacts.
Objective: The goal of this paper is to support requirements engineers with a reference catalogue of drivers,
barriers and potential impacts associated to the introduction of novel ICT solutions in rural areas.
Method: To this end, we interview 30 cross-disciplinary experts in digitalisation of rural areas, and we analyse
the transcripts to identify common themes.
Results: According to the experts, main drivers are economic, with the possibility of reducing costs, and
regulatory, as institutions push for more precise tracing and monitoring of production; barriers are the limited
connectivity, but also distrust towards technology and other socio-cultural aspects; positive impacts are socio-
economic (e.g., reduction of manual labour, greater productivity), while negative ones include potential
dependency from technology, with loss of hands-on expertise, and marginalisation of certain actors (e.g., small
farms, subjects with limited education).
Conclusion: This paper contributes to the literature with a domain-specific catalogue that characterises
digitalisation in rural areas. The catalogue can be used as a reference baseline for requirements elicitation
endeavours in rural areas, to support domain analysis prior to the development of novel solutions, as well as
fit-gap analysis for the adaptation of existing technologies.