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Digital transformation of agriculture and rural areas: A socio-cyber-physical system framework to support responsibilisation

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Journal Article

Rijswijk, Kelly, Laurens Klerkx, Manlio Bacco, Fabio Bartolini, Ellen Bulten, Lies Debruyne, Joost Dessein, Ivano Scotti, and Gianluca Brunori. 2021. “Digital Transformation of Agriculture and Rural Areas: A Socio-Cyber-Physical System Framework to Support Responsibilisation.” Journal of Rural Studies 85 (July): 79–90.

Digital technologies are often seen as an opportunity to enable sustainable futures in agriculture and rural areas. However, this digital transformation process is not inherently good as it impacts on many aspects (e.g. economic, environmental, social, technological, institutional) and their relations. The responsible research and innovation approach calls for a better understanding and anticipation of the often unknown impacts. To meet this aim we have developed a framework that allows to gain insight on the relations between the social, the cyber and the physical, i.e. a socio-cyber-physical system and have described conditions for a successful digital transformation of such a system. These are design of, and creating access to digital technologies, and navigating system complexity. This framework allows for a better problematisation of digital transformation and has been illustrated through an example of digital dairy farming. It supports an enhanced understanding of moral responsibilities regarding digital transformation, fitting within the responsible research and innovation approach, as well as a better understanding who is responsible or accountable for the identified (positive or negative) impacts, i.e. responsibilisation.

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