The delivery of services to rural regions is a key concern for both OECD and non-OECD countries. The service sector, in aggregate, now dominates total employment and value-added in OECD countries, accounting for more than 70% of these two measures, and continues to increase in importance. While services may play a slightly smaller role in rural regions than in urban areas, they are the dominant component of the rural economy. It is clear that a vibrant service sector is both vital for a prosperous local economy and crucial for meeting the needs of rural citizens.
This chapter provides an overview of the challenges in rural areas and outlines some broad policy approaches that are contributing to improving rural service delivery. It is arranged as follows: First, a context is set that includes all services, not just public services, and not just services that are provided by governments; and the point is made that while rural and urban citizens have common aspirations, the differences in their geography lead to different service delivery issues. Second, there is a discussion of the problems associated with delivering these services in rural regions. Third, a close look is taken at the evolving role of services in OECD countries and the opportunities for improved service provision. Finally, the chapter concludes by illustrating some new, and not so new, approaches visible in OECD countries that have the potential to improve service delivery in rural regions.
While many services can be provided without any government involvement, there are many others that require some form of government involvement. In this chapter we discuss ways that government can identify specific types of service to be involved with. The chapter provides an overview of the ways to think about the service mix in rural regions in the form of key questions and incorporates policy approaches on the ground where applicable. The questions include:
Government and citizens should make the decisions about public services. And, one way of dealing with the policy questions identified in the preceding chapter is more user participation through co-production schemes. Moreover, codesign and co-delivery can also answer questions about which services are to be provided and how they are to be provided. This chapter provides an overview of the role innovation and public management tools such as co-design and co-delivery can play in improving service delivery in rural regions. In addition, to co-production, it explores the benefits of incorporating long-term planning (futures thinking) and rebalancing the rural-urban relationships in designing services (vis-à-vis place based approach to policy design). This chapter is a result of a joint OECD-Commission for Rural Communities workshop held in London, in June 2009.
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