Smart rural futures: Will rural areas be left behind in the 4th industrial revolution?

The 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is the term given to encompass a range of technological developments that many argue will fundamentally change society, much in the same way that electricity and digital technology did during previous industrial revolutions. This paper argues that current debates around 4IR are centred on the urban core, with rural areas being relegated to the peripherality and the remainder.

The paper therefore examines these technologies from a rural perspective and considers what impact they could have in rural areas, both positive and negative. The analysis shows that the impacts of 4IR technologies could be just as important in rural as in urban places. Drawing on extant theories of rural development, the paper examines the physical and cultural barriers facing rural areas when attempting to engage with 4IR. The paper concludes by proposing that rural theorists engage with smart urban theoretical debates. New research should seek to understand the multi-faceted aspects of 4IR in rural regions, and to support the transition to smart rural futures.

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