New approaches to service provision, old recipes for maintaining community spirit

In addition to job opportunities, the Rural Development Programme has contributed positively to the development of services. Services have been brought to people by putting them on wheels and making them available online. Safety networks applicable to everyday life have been provided through the third sector and voluntary work.
Approximately 6,000 development projects seeking to make the living environment more attractive and to provide housing options have been carried out during the programme period. In addition to making services more accessible, the various projects have contributed positively to community spirit by, for example, engaging people in renovating village community centres or assessing the areas’ potential for tourism. Enterprises have found each other, discovering opportunities for growth in collaboration.
 
The completed projects cover a wide spectrum. Projects involving investments in broadband and energy have the greatest economic importance.  During the programme period, 80 projects have been implemented to improve broadband connections. Half of these projects were extended to form more extensive trunk networks as part of the Broadband for All by 2015 project launched by the Finnish Council of State. The number of small-scale projects involving networks that cover individual villages totals 35.
 
Due to the improved data communication links, services and living conditions for people living in rural areas, representing different age groups, have improved and, at the same time, enterprises have gained new and better opportunities for their operations, irrespective of the area in question. The programme has also supported the exploitation of network connections by improving the IT skills of the ageing population. Entrepreneurs have been provided with training in putting the opportunities offered by the data communications network to good use in, for example, marketing. Fewer than 60% of households in rural areas have access to a fixed network connection. For farms in particular, a reliable broadband connection is of high importance.