The study on the typology of rural areas has two main objectives:
- to identify categories or types of rural areas in the Community
- to specify components, parameters, methodology and tools which will be used to undertake detailed typology and characterisation of activities in these areas.
The deliverables of the study will be used directly by a number of ORA projects, including those involving typological mapping and reference model development of rural areas, the analysis and evaluation of rural development projects, and the design of better infrastructures for rural development.
The study will take account of previous work undertaken by the Commission into rural typology and related matters, as well as that carried out elsewhere. It will particularly focus upon a number of problems and attempt to resolve them within the context of ORA requirements. These include the level of disagregation which is required in order to maximise relevance but for which full data coverage is available, and the need for simple and robust procedures in applying a typology, whilst retaining flexibility in order to reveal real and relevant variations.
The study will assess the practically and need for building into or onto the more traditional socio-economic and geographical approaches to rurality, a telematics approach which, as far as is possible, takes into account the special infrastructure and applications requirements of European rural areas. The more traditional approaches will include defining aspects of population, occupancy, occupation, migration, amenities, income, land use, settlement clustering and hierarchy, etc. The telematics approach will take account of function, access and type. The fact that some telematics aspects, such as implementation costs, are highly correlated with a traditional rurality index, whilst others are uncorrelated, means that it is not possible to rely on a traditional rural typology on its own. The combination of the two approaches will include a consideration of population thresholds, economic activities and their propensity to use and pay for telematics applications, the user and workforce skills necessary, complementary infrastructures, possible constraints imposed by physical geography and distance, etc.
The study will consist of a detailed review of existing definitions of rurality used by the CEC, research institutions, central and local governments, and private companies, and of data sources available. This will be followed by the construction of a general categorisation scheme for rural areas and the definition of parameters to be used within the context of data availability. National Correspondents in each of the member states will provide comments and feedback on the suitability of the scheme for their own areas before the scheme is refined and used to develop tools and procedures for pilot testing in a number of countries. The revised categorisation scheme and accompanying methodology will be published in the final report.
One possible approach to the construction of a scheme of rural typology within Europe is the development of a 3-dimensional categorisation, as shown in the diagram. This incorporates a classwise dimension (i.e. the distinction of different types of rural/telematics area) on the one axis, a hierarchical dimension (i.e. the identification of different levels in the typology) on the second, and a spatial dimension on the third which takes account of different areal units and the data available for them. Such a scheme could handle the different demands to be placed upon it as well as being capable of incorporating new data sources and new typologies in the future, whilst being susceptible to data processing and GIS techniques.