Azerbaijan is leading the way with the creation of a smart village in Aghali, paving the way to inspire Europe and the world to tackle social poverty. Investment in smart cities is a step forward to turn urban areas more efficient by using digital and telecommunication technologies. With the same kind of thinking and commitment, it will be possible to unleash the potential of rural areas, uplift vulnerable communities while delivering towards the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
1. Aghali’s smart village
Once ruins and mined areas left by a long-time occupation by its neighbor Armenia, Aghali village, in the Zangilan district of Azerbaijan, was drastically transformed by newly built constructions, a smart management centre, agricultural services offices, a sewing factory, a family health centre, a kindergarten, and a secondary school — all the basic amenities for a community to thrive.
Covering an area of more than 110 hectares, every building is equipped with fibre insulation, electrode water heater, solar panels, and other green technologies, transforming the village into a modern urban settlement. Aghali village welcomed its first inhabitants in May 2022. Initially 41 families, around 200 people, were listed to be relocated to the area.
Much like smart cities, smart villages are designed to maximize the potential of a given rural area while increasing opportunities for the locals in a sustainable way. In smart villages, traditional and new infrastructure networks and services are enhanced by means of digital, telecommunication technologies, innovations and the better use of knowledge, for the benefit of inhabitants and businesses.
2. Basic pillars
The new Azeri project, features a number of basic pillars — smart infrastructure, smart governance, smart energy, smart education and health services, smart agriculture, employment, and business sectors.
The project aims at integrating water, energy, and road infrastructure to a smart cloud platform. Inhabitants of the village can expect access to high-speed broadband connection, fibre optic Internet and a number of smart infrastructure and services that will redesign waste management, increase digital literacy — including via online medical consultancy — and access to ATM pharmacies.
Aghali also promises to be at the forefront of sustainable energy practices. The village will rely mostly on alternative and renewable energy, using water heating through solar collectors, 3 large wind turbines with a capacity of 212 kW and heat pumps to heat kindergartens and schools.
With integrated smart solutions, we believe that the Aghali smart village will contribute to the social development of many families while showcasing to the world the myriad of opportunities that sustainable investment in rural areas can bring to communities.Ambassador Vaqif Sadıqov, Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the Kingdom of Belgium
2.1 Before reconstruction
2.2. After reconstruction
To settle the newcomers in, the government ensures their employment, noting it had 116 jobs in the hospitality sector (hotel and tourism, catering), 60 jobs at a buffalo farm and buffalo milk processing, 53 jobs at a concrete production plant, 200 permanent and seasonal jobs in agriculture and 108 jobs for State institutions.
Thanks to the project, Aghali is set to become an international transport and logistical hub with a highly developed agricultural and tourism infrastructure.Mirza Aliyev, Head of Agency in charge of the Aghali smart village project told The Parliament Magazine.
4. Sustainable Development Goals
The Aghali smart village also showcases the possibility of advancing a number of SDGs by providing “clean and affordable energy” (SDG 7), “good health and wellbeing” (SDG 3), “no poverty” (SDG 1), “responsible consumption and production” (SDG 12), “decent work and economic growth” (SDG 8) and “climate action” (SDG 13).
On World Refugee Day, June 20, the Azeri Foreign Ministry said that the smart village of Aghali will soon be welcoming internally displaced persons (IDP) and families.
Today marks World Refugee Day, a day when we honor the strength and resilience of refugees and IDPs worldwide. Azerbaijan looks forward to the return of IDPs and celebrating the start of new chapter for Karabakh region. Smart Village of Aghali will soon be welcoming IDP families.Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan
5. European action
Over the past years, the EU has been working on ways to revive rural areas through the bloc’s cohesion policy, agricultural policies and rural development programmes. Back in 2016, the European Commission targeted specifically rural areas by launching the EU Action for Smart Villages.
More recently, in April 2022, the Commission launched the EU Mission, which has designated 100 EU cities that will be part of a project enhancing these locations to become climate-neutral and smart cities by 2030.
In view of the success of Azerbaijan’s Aghali smart village, Baku is encouraging the EU and its neighbourhood to consider a ‘EU Mission’ dedicated to villages to be built on the success of the smart cities trend and unlock the potential of local populations in rural areas or even give a new life to those affected by social poverty.