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About the event

Malcolm McCurrach /HIE

Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead! is a virtual 48-hours hackathon aimed at finding innovative solutions for a sustainable post-Covid recovery of the North Atlantic region.

The region is characterised by its rural areas, sparsely populated communities, long distances, and challenges in delivery of services, including the provision of essential healthcare.

These everyday challenges have become even more visible throughout the pandemic. At the same time, one of the key economic sectors and income sources in the region, the tourism industry, has vanished, and left thousands without a job.

The competition “Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead!” will aim to find immediate and longer-term solutions to these challenges, and will provide the young participants with a roadmap to entrepreneurship.

This hackathon is a collaboration between Nordic Atlantic Cooperation (NORA), the Nordic Council of Ministers, Scottish Government and Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) in Scotland, the University of New England and Maine North Atlantic Development Office in the State of Maine, USA and Cooperation Council of Ontario in Canada. It will take place online on 19-21 March 2021 across Greenland, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Coastal Norway, Scotland, Maine and Ontario.

The event has two main challenges:

  1. Digital Health in Rural Areas
  2. Post-Covid Recovery in Rural Tourism

Digital Health in Rural Areas

Public health issues are of importance to every country. During the Covid-19 pandemic the health issue has come to the fore globally. Proximity to hospitals and availability of essential medical aid and other health services play a crucial role in securing the well-being of people.

In rural settings there are many challenges and pressures on healthcare systems, due to distances, dispersed settlements, skills shortages, and overall population ageing. There are fewer working age people supporting many older people. In spite of all these, communities in remote regions often have a high degree of self-reliance, innovation and community response.

These challenges can also make rural places the ideal locations to develop, test and trial new and innovative technologies. Digital technologies can remove the need for patients to travel to hospital and allow them to manage long term conditions more effectively, while reducing costs for the healthcare system.

The hackathon will address the issues that people living in rural areas in the North Atlantic face when it comes to getting essential medical help, both during and after the pandemic. Many people also lack access to or skills to use digital tools, which is another challenge that needs to be addressed.

See all mentors for the digital health theme here.

See all jurors for the digital health theme here.

Post-Covid Recovery in Rural Tourism

One of the key economic sectors and significant sources of income, jobs, and cultural exchange in the North Atlantic region, is tourism. This sector has largely disappeared through the pandemic which has had significant economic and social consequences for these regions. Travel restrictions, hesitation to travel, and environmental concerns all played a role, and many of these issues will not be gone when the pandemic is over.

The hackathon participants will need to come up with ideas to revive and renew the tourism industry post-pandemic, making it more resilient and sustainable. A green and sustainable tourism industry is vital to secure the Nordic and North Atlantic region as the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. This could create sustainable jobs, protect the environment, and secure cultural exchanges. Emphasis will be put on the ideas with potential for creating jobs in the region, preferably on a longer basis.

See all mentors for the rural tourism theme here.

See all jurors for the rural tourism theme here.


There are a variety of open-sourced datasets available for in the region and beyond. Once approved as participant, there will be some links provided in the participant portal. You can also try to find some datasets yourself.

Where do I find the kick-off session and the closing ceremony?

The kick-off session on 19 March and the closing ceremony on 23 March will be shown on the YouTube channel called Nordisk Atlantsamarbejde.