Think rural, think digital, think ahead!

During the weekend of 19-21 March 2021 NORA and our partners held a virtual hackathon that set young entrepreneurship in the North Atlantic in the spotlight.

During the Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead! competition, participants aged 18 to 35 were challenged to find innovative solutions for a swift post-Covid recovery of the North Atlantic region.

The region is defined 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, tourism, one of the major income sources in the region, has vanished, leaving thousands without jobs.

The aim of the competition was to find temporary and permanent solutions to these challenges, and to provide the participants with a roadmap to entrepreneurship.

The hackathon featured two main competitions, and the winner of each received an award.

Digital health in rural areas

Public health is important for all communities, but, during the pandemic, it was been a primary concern for decisionmakers at the highest levels. Closeness to hospitals and healthcare services plays a crucial role in the well-being of residents. In rural societies, distance, low population density, skills shortages and a greying population that sees fewer working age people supporting an increasing number of economically inactive residents place an additional strain on health services. In spite of this, communities in remote regions are often highly self-reliant, innovative and community-minded.

The hackathon addressed the issues that people living in rural areas in the North Atlantic face when it comes to getting essential medical care, both during and after the pandemic. Many people also unable to use the tools that enable distance-healthcare — a challenge that was addressed during the hackathon.

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. Tourism largely disappeared during the pandemic and this has had significant economic and social consequences. Official restrictions, personal hesitation among travellers and environmental concerns all played a role in the industry’s sudden decline, and many of these issues remain even after the pandemic.

Hackathon participants needed to come up with ideas for reviving and renewing the tourism industry post-pandemic, making it more resilient and sustainable. A green and sustainable tourism industry is vital of the Nordic region is to achieve its goal of becoming the most sustainable and integrated region in the world by 2030. Success could create sustainable jobs, promote environmental protection and encourage cultural exchange. Hackathon participants were encourage to come up with ideas that had the potential for creating jobs — and particularly long-term jobs — in the region.


Residents of the North Atlantic region aged 18-35 could apply to participate in the event. The region comprises of the following countries and sub-national jurisdictions:

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

Participants were required to have at least basic computer skills, access to an adequate internet connection and be available to work on their ideas throughout the entire competition.


Think Rural, Think Digital, Think Ahead! was competition made up of international and trans-Atlantic teams. Participants registered individually and were placed into teams by the organisers. It was not possible to register with a pre-formed team.


The hackathon was organised by:

  • NORA
  • The 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

 See more at https://thinkrural.nora.fo/home.