Remote areas are disadvantaged when it comes to digitalization, but they can benefit from it just as much as big cities. The challenge is to provide people access to digital education and the capital and infrastructure to develop their own solutions. That’s what Schweizer Berghilfe does.
You might think digital transformation happens predominantly in big cities and tech hubs. True, it does, but not only. It also happens in the Swiss mountains. The “Schweizer Berghilfe” is a Civic & Social Organization in Switzerland that aims at developing mountainous regions. Anyone who has ever been to Switzerland – or Liechtenstein for that matter – knows that both countries are spread out with small mountain villages scattered all over the country. But how does digitalization reach these areas?
E-learning gives access to opportunities
The Schweizer Berghilfe has launched a campaign to raise funds for several projects in the region. “We are convinced that digitalization offers enormous opportunities around here,” writes the Berghilfe in a press release. “But we have to be able to use them.” That’s why the organization is raising funds to support small and medium-sized businesses in developing their digital tools and infrastructure.
The challenges of the Swiss alps are, in particular, their limited access to markets and education. Digital tools might help to at least partly resolve those issues. E-learning means people can participate in online education everywhere as long as they have a stable internet connection. “We have already supported more than 500 people from mountainous areas to access digital education opportunities,” explains Regula Straub, co-CEO at Schweizer Berghilfe.
671 projects in 2020
Several projects have already been successfully developed. In Le Cerneux-Péquignot, a company called Swiss Gravity uses Big Data-fueled algorithms to improve their CNC-machines’ accuracy. That has significantly improved the quality and efficiency of their production. With the help of the Berghilfe, the company could buy ten such machines, which now produce 24/7.
In Lichtensteig, the local community opened a co-working space called “Macherzentrum,” where remote working happens. With 14 desks, it’s not a vast space, but for a small community like Lichtensteig, that’s already something. It enables digital working and provides a place where digital workers can come together and exchange ideas.
Those are just examples. The Schweizer Berghilfe spent about CHF 34 million on 671 projects in 2020, mostly in agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, energy, forest, education, health, and emergency aid. All of these funds are exclusively financed through donations.
Financed through donations
The Schweizer Berghilfe shows many impressive use cases for digitalization in mountainous regions. Many of these ideas might one day be copied in other countries as well. These projects also show that digitalization is by no means limited to city centers and tech hubs. Everywhere where people face challenges which technology might help solving, digitalization will experience a boost. The challenge is making the infrastructure available to these areas, giving people stable internet and access to learning opportunities and ideas exchange. And that’s what Schweizer Berghilfe is aiming for. Take a look at their work here: https://www.berghilfe.ch/