Villages of Tomorrow

What is the project about?

While technological advancements and the increasing use of technology bring various social, economic and environmental opportunities, the uneven distribution of both technological tools and digital skills heightens the risk of digital divide. The digital divide is particularly observed in rural areas and among women.

Due to ongoing migration from rural to urban areas and especially the decreasing presence of young people in rural regions, issues such as idle agricultural lands, low productivity, the inability to preserve tangible and intangible cultural values and increasing rural poverty frequently appear in key policy documents.

E-commerce, seen as a significant tool against the digital divide, has emerged as a rapidly developing area in recent years, bringing new opportunities. Particularly during the Covid-19 pandemic, the accelerated use of e-commerce has enabled local producers to communicate directly with end consumers. However, e-commerce activities are mostly carried out in major urban centers, therefore, expanding these activities to rural areas is important.

In response to all these opportunities and risks and to achieve the 2030 agenda, as well as to reduce inequalities in rural areas and promote gender-sensitive digitalization, the Villages of Project has been launched in collaboration between the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Trendyol.

The first phase of the project started on October 1, 2022, and ended on March 31, 2024. As of April 1, 2024, the second phase of the project has commenced. While the first phase focused on increasing the use of e-commerce platforms, creating pilot rural settlements and sustainable digital centers with a holistic approach, the second phase plans to establish new model villages, further strengthen existing models and create a national network.


What is the Situation?

In recent years, the Covid-19 pandemic has significantly affected global prosperity, leading to increased poverty and deepened inequalities. Additionally, the adverse effects of climate change have become more visible, wars and conflicts have exposed vulnerabilities in global value chains, resulting in both loss of life and economic setbacks.

On the positive side, rapid advancements in technology have presented humanity with social, economic, and environmental opportunities. However, these opportunities have led to inequality due to the disproportionate distribution of digital tools and skills, known as the digital divide. While the digital divide is evident in both urban and rural areas, rural regions are particularly disadvantaged in terms of service delivery, infrastructure, and equal opportunities.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) report published in 2021, rural areas are viewed as underdeveloped segments of the national economy. The report also highlights that improvements in agricultural productivity are seen as key elements of economic transformation since rural areas are typically characterized by agriculture. Additionally, another UN DESA report published in 2023 underscores the challenges faced by elderly individuals in rural and remote areas in accessing services and supportive infrastructure. Disadvantaged families in rural areas also face barriers in accessing digital technology, ant this causes poverty and inequality.

Geopolitical, technological, and environmental transformations are leading to increased migration at both national and international levels. Regardless of the reason, migration results in the underutilization of agricultural lands, decreased production, failure to preserve intangible cultural heritage, and increased rural poverty. In this context, digitalization in rural settlements is considered critical, particularly for enhancing productivity, creating social and economic opportunities, and providing new job opportunities for youth.

From an e-commerce perspective, in Türkiye, half of e-commerce activities take place in three main metropolises, with national policy documents prioritizing the expansion and inclusiveness of digital trade. However, the share of e-commerce in rural settlements is significantly low, and social facilities are considered more important than economic facilities. According to the "Rural Settlements Field Study" report conducted under the Ministry of Industry and Technology's YERSİS project, the share of product sales in rural areas is less than 0.5%, with products primarily marketed through wholesalers and marketplaces. The report also notes that 40% of rural settlement residents prioritize social facilities over economic facilities. The percentage of rural settlements with mobile internet access is calculated at 68.46%, while broadband access stands at 46.27%.

According to data from the 12th Development Plan covering the years 2024-2028, the gender gap in internet usage between women and men is decreasing, which can be seen as a positive development. In 2022, this gap was 8.2%, while in 2023, it decreased to 7.6%. The plan aims to increase the number of online shoppers by nearly 13% by 2028. Additionally, it seeks to increase the share of e-exports in total exports to 10%, a fivefold increase from the 2023 figures.


What is our mission?

Global policies are now more focused than ever on reducing the digital divide. The UNDP Digital Strategy identifies the two main causes of the digital divide as the lack of connectivity and the absence of appropriate skills. In 2020, the United Nations underscored the goal of increasing digital connectivity during the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel on Digital Cooperation. The main outcome of this process, the report titled “The Age of Digital Interdependence,” emphasizes the importance of collaboration between the public and private sectors in achieving digital inclusivity. UNDP plays a leading role in enhancing digital skills in disadvantaged regions and disadvantaged groups by leveraging resources from various sectors, including the private sector.

As in the first phase of the project, UNDP will continue to draw on the lessons learned and experiences gained from completed projects in the second phase and will collaborate with ongoing projects to ensure the success of the initiative.


How are we doing this?

The project aims to be a pioneering initiative in addressing inequalities, challenges, issues, and opportunities in rural areas by increasing the level of digitalization in these regions. It is designed as the first phase of a long-term perspective for sustainable and inclusive development in rural settlements by implementing holistic actions in pilot villages.

The main target groups of the project include residents and entrepreneurs, producers, farmers, service providers, public officials, civil society representatives and researchers in the digital value chain, especially women and young people in pilot villages. The focus in these pilot rural settlements is on early childhood, youth and women as a response to gender inequality and the digital divide. Young people and children are considered important as they develop an inclination toward digital technologies at an early age.

The project was initiated in three pilot villages in the provinces of Adana, Diyarbakır, and İzmir, with the aim of reaching a total of ten villages until 2028. In the first phase, the villages of Kürkçüler in Adana Sarıçam, Bağıvar in Diyarbakır Sur, and Ulamış in İzmir Seferihisar were selected as the initial focus areas. Local advisory boards were established for the project in each of these provinces and the opinions of board representatives were integrated into roadmaps along with local policy documents, data analyses, and qualitative assessments. These roadmaps prepared for each pilot village helped design activities to be carried out and identify local products to focus on within the project framework.

In the project, the focus products include Çukurova cotton and Aladağ woven, citrus fruits and Karaisalı pepper in Adana; almond, watermelon, terebinth, grape, copper and silk textiles in Diyarbakır; In Izmir, artichoke, olive, Karakılçık wheat, carob and felt, needle lace were determined as the focus products within the scope of the project. The project aims to increase efficiency of the production of these focus products, diversify them with derivative products, access new markets and increase their share in e-commerce.

Additionally, digital centers are established in each pilot area in collaboration with local partners. During the establishment of these digital centers, partially or fully unused structures in pilot villages were identified and repurposed through the project. Mechanisms were designed to utilize the resources of local project partners in the construction and furnishing of these centers. These centers were equipped with necessary technological equipment and furnishings, serving as the central hub for project activities and a meeting point for targeted stakeholders.

Given the project's emphasis on "digitalization in agriculture," practical training areas for digital agriculture were designed in the gardens of the digital centers or suitable nearby areas, with the installation of digital agricultural equipment. These areas were also used to plant focus agricultural products and locally prevalent crops. Furthermore, digital agriculture equipment was installed in fields within pilot villages, creating infrastructure for data-driven pest control, irrigation, planting, and analysis. Measurements and monitoring have been ongoing since the installation, and the collected data is being evaluated in collaboration with relevant local public institutions for district-level analysis.

As of November 2023, training, consultancy and awareness activities are being conducted in the digital centers. These include digitalization and robotic coding training for children, value-added product development workshops for women cooperatives and women entrepreneurs, and digital agriculture training for farmers and agricultural professionals. In the second phase, training for various target groups will continue, with priorities determined based on needs analysis. Additionally, as part of the value-added product development process, packaging/labeling, e-commerce, and marketing training will be provided to target groups.

Moreover, as in the first phase, local partners were brought together to form working groups in the second phase, the ideas and suggestions noted during workshops intended to be integrated to the roadmap. In this context, with the guidance of the road map, work has begun to establish a digital center in Taraklı village of Sakarya. It is also planned to establish a digital center in Hatay, one of the provinces affected by the earthquake.

With the second phase, the project aims to diversify activities in the selected villages and the established centers, create a sustainable network among tomorrow's villages, and pursue recognition on international platforms.


How will Türkiye benefit?

Embracing the logic of change management, strategic goals and principles, the project aims to promote sustainable and inclusive development in rural settlements by ensuring the effective use of digital tools and enhancing the capacities of youth, women and disadvantaged groups.

Pilot villages have been identified in Adana, Diyarbakır and İzmir, with plans to include more regions and establish a network of digital villages. The project will provide a case study for local governments and public institutions on the digitalization of rural settlements. The digital centers in the targeted villages will make digital technologies accessible to everyone. Upon completion, the project is expected to increase the share of new e-commerce entrepreneurs in the pilot provinces by 60%. Additionally, a white paper will be prepared as a policy recommendation tool for the government. Rural development with the help of digital technology and skills will be emphasized through agenda-setting, comprehensive dialogue, and awareness-raising activities among all segments of society.



April 2024


March 2026








DSM Grup Danışmanlık İletişim ve Satış Ticaret A.Ş.






Full Project information