Providing the inhabitants of rural areas and small towns with the proper living conditions and opportunities to prosper will both combat poverty and reduce the incentive to migrate to cities. Directing efforts towards a suite of development strategies targeted at villages and small towns in rural areas can create the basis of economic development with a low environmental impact and slow down the influx of people to sprawling megacities.
Initiatives such as securing access to energy, communication and infrastructure could enable broader economic development and access to new jobs in rural areas. Advances in technologies like distributed energy generation, mobile phones and the internet, along with the possible rise in distributed production via 3-D printing, can act together to provide the technological foundation for extended rural growth.
Access to mobile phones is already almost universal in most parts of the world, and distributed energy generation, especially through solar power, is fast positioning itself as one of the fastest-growing energy sources. In lower-income countries, these developments are already improving standards of living in many rural areas by spreading access to health care and distance education. They are also providing new tools for developing the rural economy such as delivering weather forecasts or market information to farmers.
Many of these initiatives are driven by unsubsidized markets; however, governments could accelerate development by channelling funds into the necessary physical infrastructure. On top of the potential macroeconomic gains, focusing on rural development and small towns can reduce poverty, seeing as 85 percent of the world’s poor currently live in these areas.