To begin with: as one may conclude from its determinant orientation towards sustainable future, FabVillage does not stand for a Fabulous Village. The concept itself is inextricably linked with the concept of a FabCity and FabCity is intertwined with the existence of FabLabs (e.g. Fabrication Laboratories) – and hence the name.
FabLabs are open, creative places, equipped with advanced technological equipment, such as 3D printers, 3D scanners, CNC machines, laser cutting and engraving machines. Soon after the first FabLab was founded at the Centre for Bits and Atoms in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) the idea spreaded all over world. Activities of FabLabs range from empowering technological skills to local problem-solving or business incubation, therefore they are perfect examples of non-commercial, sustainable oriented and creative places.
The idea of FabCity started to grow from ideals of FabLabs – connectivity, culture, creativity – but instead took them to the scale of the whole city. FabCities strive to produce everything a city and its inhabitants need to live and work. They try to enhance local and circular economy by using and establishing evermore FabLabs. The main idea is to move majority of production inside the city – including recycling materials or following local and needs through grass-roots initiatives.
In the context of urban, densely populated spaces it is relatively easy to think of ways to enhance connectivity in relation to digitalization, creative or technological production. But is it possible to take the concept of FabCity and apply it to the rural areas? For Slovenia the development of rural areas is especially important as more than one half of the population lives there.
Let us take a look at Slovenian countryside. A lot of FabLabs in FabLab Network Slovenia are located in rural areas. All of them grew out of local needs and initiatives and they are all strongly embedded in local environment. They are connected to schools, business and co-working places. Some of them are also closely connected to other local initiatives. In Slovenske Konjice there is U-lab, located at and connected to one of the regional high schools. When Distributed hotel Konjice was being established, U-lab has produced number plates for the rooms. Food that is available in the restaurant is locally produced and delivered by local suppliers. The hotel also interconnects three different local providers of accommodation and forms connections with providers of other tourist services as for example ski resort or wine tourism.
To explain more thoroughly: in a FabVillage FabLabs have a central role in connecting already existing initiatives to local FabLabs and different actors from different fields. They represent a creative place for innovation and prototyping attractive for local schools or start-uppers. They can be workshops where local artisans and craftsmen test new techniques and approaches. FabLabs could also be the places where new locally-based digital solutions are being produced. FabLabs can also be the places to enhance digital connectivity and help to reduce digital divide. With such local ecosystem new business opportunities are formed and job opportunities diversify. Such ecosystem of FabVillages addresses specific problematics of Slovenian rural areas and enables to form contextual and sustainable solutions, and enables equal opportunities to everyone regardless of whether they live in a city or in a countryside.
We have discussed FabVillages in more details at 27th International Electrotechnical and Computer Science Conference ERK 2018. If you are interested in the topic, please read What is a FabVillage? Proposing new concepts to mare rural areas smarter.