Creating job opportunities and fostering growth with a low environmental impact in rural areas can relieve migration pressure and alleviate overcrowding in cities.

Providing the inhabitants of rural areas and small towns with the proper living conditions and opportunities to necessary 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 for 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 rapidly positioning itself as one of the fastest-growing energy sources. In developing economies, 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 channeling 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.

Survey Findings

The market opportunity Rural Growth Initiatives is quite differently rated across geographical regions. In the region Other Asia (covering Korea, Japan and Russia), it is seen as one of the top opportunities when assessed for its potential positive impact on society. However, within the regions Europe, India and MENA it is the least preferred of the 15 market opportunities surveyed in 2014.

When looking at responses across business sectors, again it was rated with great differences in our 2014 survey. The finance sector scored it most positively for its potential impact on society, but survey respondents in the manufacturing and governmental sectors were less positive. Finance sector respondents also believe this opportunity will affect their business positively, but they do not expect to pursue new business ventures inspired by it.

In North America and MENA around 60 percent of the 2014 survey respondents assess that it will be at least five years before this opportunity reaches full potential – if ever. In China, SEA and India, however, 60 percent of respondents believe it will reach full potential within 4 years.

This market was surveyed globally in 2014 by more than 5500 leaders from both the public and private sectors. The survey was conducted in collaboration with the research company YouGov. The survey results were originally published in the Global Opportunity Report 2015.

Global Goals addressed