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Digital transition

Digital transition

All topics

Snapshot

Challenges

There  are  still large  differences  between  EU  cities  as  regards  digitalising  urban  policies and local public services offered to citizens and businesses. Indeed, EU citizens still face many difficulties to access digital benefits due to unequal access to fast internet connection across Europe sometimes caused by restricted ICT infrastructure, partial digital knowledge, limited access to local digital services, etc. However, digital transition is a key process to create tools for development, making future cities functional and people-centric environments. Thus, digital transition is a recurring issue for the European Innovation Partnership on Smart Cities and Communities since 2014, also thoroughly discussed in the framework of the dedicated partnership of the Urban Agenda for the EU. Indeed, cities are increasingly involved in the digital transition, as key actors of the public services development and urban planning, therefore setting the appropriate conditions for businesses to flourish. Digital transition is then crucial to provide better public services to citizens (e.g. reduce administrative burden on citizens), to help local businesses to develop digital skills, innovations and create new business opportunities for local development and to improve interactions with public authorities fostering better information and participation. The European Commission called Urban Authorities on to strengthen their overall the ability to act within the digital transition and to implement innovative solutions to the following challenges:

  • Enable and implement smart cities solutions including business models, finance and procurement, integrated infrastructures and processes, integrated planning and regulations, sustainable districts and built environment and sustainable urban mobility;
  • Enable and implement citizen-centric eGovernment solutions across sectors;
  • Create value through free and fair access to data of any kind: open/public/private sector/personal data;
  • Accelerate adoption of digital emerging technologies, which will modernize the city’s infrastructure and services (e.g. smart lamppost solutions, innovative 5G communication networks ; integrating open urban data platforms);
  • Create a business friendly environment and act as places and platforms to allow agile experimentation of data-driven businesses
Ravenna

Trends of the solutions proposed

56 proposals have been received for this topic under the 4th call for proposals. They put a clear emphasis on the six Action Clusters of the European Innovation Partnership and/or the Digital Transition Partnership. Overall there is a clear distinction between proposals with a more ‘open’ or horizontal approach (e-government and data sharing, mobility and business models subtopics); and others with a more precise focus on a specific issues (planning, regulations and sustainable districts subtopics). Most of the proposals submitted under this topic focused on five main urban issues and use digital transition tools to address them:

  • Improving urban mobility. Proposals focussing on urban mobility explore how digital tools can help to develop sustainable mode of transport. Some of them look at unlocking data potential to improve traffic efficiency and adaptability to users, others at using platforms and data visualization as incentives to change mobility habits.
  • Citizen-centered e-government. Some Urban Authorities proposed to open and share data for better city management, and better citizens’ involvement, implementing multi-purpose applications including artificial intelligence assistants, data (or big data) platforms/hubs or ‘Citizens Relationship Management’ tools.
  • Redefining business models. Applicants broadly proposed to develop and test innovative business models including digital public procurement processes, in fields such as the creative industries, e-finance, and tourism or business environment.
  • Developing integrated urban planning and infrastructures. A part of the submitted proposals intended to use digital activities to change the urban environment towards a more sustainable urban planning. For instance, some applicants proposed to develop digital tokenisation systems to foster sustainable behaviours in energy consumption, or to use optical networks or platforms for smart lighting, water management or green corridors.
  • Designing sustainable districts. Some proposals looked at Digital Transition as a way to improve quality of live or rehabilitation of special districts developing new digital tools for mapping, monitoring and preserving local heritage or applications to foster circular economy approaches in the neighbourhood.
Voxpop project

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

  • Antwerp Circular South - engaging the community in an online and offline circular economy, Antwerp
  • DIACCESS - Digital ACCeleration for medium SizE Sustainable cities, Växjö
  • RUDI - Rennes Urban Data Interface, Rennes Métropole
  • DARE - Digital Environment for collaborative Alliances to Regenerate urban Ecosystems in middle-sized cities, Ravenna
  • VoxPop - People, Processes & Technology towards the digital transformation of the urban mobility system of Lisbon, Lisbon
  • WESH - We.Service.Heerlen, Heerlen
  • GAVIUS - From reactive to proactive public administrations, Gava

Part of the selected projects seek to foster civic engagement and citizen participation in municipal activities and projects using digital tools. Indeed, digital tools can activate and further develop citizen’s involvement, especially when dealing with urban planning issues or policies. Such approach is experimented by the city of Ravenna to regenerate the Darsena district, a former industrial and declining district. The collaborative platform developed by the DARE project is thought to make data accessible, understandable and useful, to enable citizens to co-design regeneration activities and thus become active part in the regeneration process. The overall objective of the project is to co-design a regeneration strategy together with the inhabitant to shift Darsena district from an abandoned, neglected, static area, to an attractive and innovative urban ecosystem, thanks to digital transition.

In a very different context, the WESH project also develops digital tools to engage citizens in taking action for their daily environment. Indeed, the Herleen municipality is facing a strong downward pressure on its public services budget due to unfavourable economic and demographic trends. To ensure previous quality levels of public spaces, the project uses crowdsourcing to develop a civic engagement model starting from public space maintenance operations. The solution deployed relies on an incentive approach enabled by a set of digital tools such as the WESH app. Through the app the city rewards citizens for actively engaging in public spaces upkeep with a blockchain-based local token that can be spent at local businesses.

In line with such participative approach, the RUDI project by Rennes Métropole also aims at enabling and implementing citizen-centric e-government solutions across sectors and to create value through free and fair access to data of any kind. The innovative solution is to implement the Rennes Urban Data Interface (RUDI), an interface facilitating access to data from multiple producers. This portal is intended for citizens, companies and other project leaders and is co-designed in a participatory way with these stakeholders. Features will be especially designed for citizens regarding their own personal data.

rudi rennes

Under the pressure of new actors in the digital sector, cities are subject to a double requirement in providing local public services: adapting to new quality standards (speed, flexibility, individualization, etc.) and guaranteeing that the criteria inherent to public services are maintained (fair treatment, neutrality, continuity of service, protection of privacy).

The VoxPop project in Lisbon is using digital and data potential to increase mobility services efficiency at lower operating costs to the benefit of citizens. To do so, VoxPop develops a data-sharing model, where multi-party data are translated into actionable intelligence, in an effort to enable the creation of enhanced user-centred mobility services and unlock more efficient methods of planning, operating and maintaining transport assets. The Lisbon municipality believes digital transition is a journey combining People, Processes and Technology, which is why VoxPop will also look at non-technological challenges, namely governance, business models, user centricity and unintended consequences of digital innovation.

In another context of intervention, the Gavius project uses artificial intelligence to improve social aids efficiency. To do so, the municipality of Gava will create a digital tool that facilitates citizens to access subsidies to which they are entitled in an easy manner, through a virtual assistant. The system will use machine learning techniques and artificial intelligence to achieve three main objectives: facilitating the work of municipal technicians and their relationship with citizens; helping citizens in accessing public services autonomously and easily; assisting municipal managers and politicians to plan more efficiently the resources needed in social services.

In Vienna, the municipality look at the planning sector, seeking to improve the construction approval process, which is a time-consuming process. The BRISE project aims to develop an automated method for assessing construction permits to respond to the challenge of increased construction activity in the capital of Austria. It will make the approval process of construction permits faster and less resource-consuming, thus benefitting citizens, architects, businesses and public servants. The main solution focuses on the digitalisation of the approvals process and includes semi-automated Building Information Modelling (BIM) examinations that will save resources of both applicants and urban authority. It will also optimise the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in transferring legal frameworks into BIM-based test routines.

Provision of these services, while ensuring they remain both efficient and respectful of public interest, implies the ability to process very large volumes of heterogeneous data produced by a wide variety of actors. Rennes Métropole’s project digs into this issue, developing an innovative web portal, which grants access to the area’s data to promote their by all city’s inhabitants. Conceived as a “data social network”, RUDI is based on the creation of a meta-catalog of data enabling citizens to take back control over their data.

Improving the digital services provided by cities can unlock opportunities for the innovation urban ecosystem, especially for local businesses but it also can foster public-private cooperation. With the DIACCESS project, the city of Växjö is experimenting such approach and developing close innovation partnerships between municipal departments and companies and digital innovators. The overall objective is to better address city’s needs and sustainability challenges, while stimulating digital innovation opportunities. A new procurement process will be tested as part of a Digital Acceleration Hub where municipal services and entrepreneurs cooperate in developing innovative solutions. Besides, an open IT platform will enable existing municipal and private or sensors-generated data to be collected, stored and unlocked for innovators, who will then be able to commercialize their services in the platform. In parallel, a Digital Lab will be set up as a creative environment to support innovators and unemployed persons with IT knowledge.

Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA knowledge lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA digital transition projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) zoom-ins (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) and web articles (overview of the project) to get deeper knowledge about digital transition and related topics. 

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: digital lab; digital transition.

56

proposals received

7

projects approved

€ 28,9 M

ERDF invested

See all resources on this topic Go to the UIA Knowledge Lab

Digital transition's projects