Think rural, think digital, think ahead!

19-21 March 2021 was a weekend for promoting young entrepreneurship in the North Atlantic.

In the virtual hackathon Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead! participants between 18 and 35 years old were welcome to find innovative solutions for a swift post-covid recovery of the North Atlantic region. 

The region is characterized by its rural areas, sparsely populated communities, long distances, and challenges in delivery of services. These everyday challenges have become even more visible throughout the pandemic. At the same time one of the major income sources in the region, the tourism industry, has vanished, and left thousands without a job.

The competition “Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead” aimed to find temporary and permanent solutions to these challenges, and provided the young participants with a roadmap to entrepreneurship.

There were two main challenges for this hackathon, of which both will have a reward:

Digital health in rural areas

Public Health issues are of importance to every country. During the Covid-19 pandemic the health issue has been of primary concern globally. Closeness to hospitals, medical aid and other health services play a crucial role in securing the well-being of people. In rural societies there are many challenges and pressures on the 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.

The hackathon addressed 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 a pandemic. Many people also lack access to or skills to use digital tools, which is a challenge that was addressed as well.

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 needed 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 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 was put on the ideas with potential for creating jobs in the region, preferably on a longer basis.

Who could apply?

Individuals in the age range of 18-35 years who reside in the North Atlantic region could apply to participate in the event. The North Atlantic region comprises of the following geography:

  • Iceland
  • Greenland
  • Faroe Islands
  • Scotland
  • Coastal Norway (counties bordering the Atlantic Ocean from Rogaland to Troms and Finnmark)
  • State of Maine, USA
  • Province of Ontario, Canada

All participants should have at least basic computer skills, access to an adequate internet connection and availability to work on their ideas throughout the whole competition.


The event Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead! was a team competition, with international and transatlantic teams. All participants had to register individually, and teams were formed by the organizers. In this event, it was not possible to register with a pre-formed team.


The hackathon was organized by the following partners:

  • Nordic Atlantic Cooperation (NORA)
  • Scottish Government
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)
  • University of New England (UNE)
  • Maine North Atlantic Development Office (MENADO)
  • Cooperation Council of Ontario (CCO)
  • Nordic Council of Ministers