Access to opportunity in remote and rural areas


19 May
09:00 to 10:30
Hall 4, Level +1

“Access to opportunity in remote and rural areas” identified the challenges that are often overlooked in the broader transport dialogue and discussed solutions to better provide connectivity in these regions.

Rural communities suffer from lower-quality infrastructure, higher levels of road fatalities, and very low access to public transport. Rural areas are also home to an ageing population whose needs are not currently being met. There are political, economic and social ramifications to neglecting these communities.

The political divide between urban and rural communities has been growing, and neglecting the transport and connectivity needs of rural communities will only serve to deepen this.

Being able to travel and access opportunities is a right, and it makes a good business case. The economic potential of residents is lost when they cannot access jobs and markets. Rural communities that are poorly connected to economic opportunities suffer from underemployment despite being home to skilled, educated workers. Studies show that women are particularly affected by a lack of transport options, as are persons with disabilities, who may not even be “visible” in many parts of the world. As populations age, accommodating older adults (the “silver economy”), also makes good business sense, while allowing travel with freedom and dignity.

Travel is not always possible for people in remote areas, especially for urgent cases such as accessing healthcare. Innovative solutions for goods delivery can help bring services and opportunities to the people, rather than facilitating travel itself. Autonomous drone technology has been deployed successfully in a number of African countries to deliver blood and vaccines on demand. In Rwanda, for example, every hospital in the country can be reached in 45 minutes from a central depot, making all blood types available on demand and eliminating the waste associated with holding highly perishable products in local storage. Other short shelf-life products essential to rural economies, such as animal semen, are also being distributed this way, with drone operation across Africa facilitated by co-operation with local air traffic control authorities.

While new technology offers promising solutions, well established “technologies” such as the bicycle is a key tool for accessing essential services and goods in rural areas. Access to a bike, alongside necessary safety training, can improve social outcomes, especially for girls who may not have consistent access to education otherwise.

Local infrastructure should also be prioritised for bicycles and similar modes, as the return on investment is high compared to superhighways that dissect but do not serve rural communities. Governments must be careful when solving connectivity issues with roads. The answer is not to build large highways in a manner that further isolates communities that are already disenfranchised.


Rural communities need to be served with context-specific solutions. They need access to mobility hubs, and investment in shared mobility services, not just large road infrastructure. Ultimately, any limitations people have in accessing transport systems reflect the transport system itself and the policies that support it, not the individuals affected. Rural communities and their residents must remain central to the transport agenda. 


Daniel Blay

Vice President, Solutions Architect Africa


Linda Ristagno

Assistant Director, External Affairs

International Air Transport Association (IATA)

Neil Pedersen

Executive Director

Transportation Research Board (TRB)

Kristina Jasiunaite

Managing Director Europe

World Bicycle Relief

Emma MacLennan

Founder & Director

Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST)

Access to opportunity in remote and rural areas: Part 1

Access to opportunity in remote and rural areas: Part 2