Digitise public administration! Conference offers cross-section of technologies for cities and communities in the region

An ever-present trend, an unstoppable force, an opportunity, but at the same time a threat. In the commercial sector of today, anyone who sees even a tiny way around the corner is digitising. Nothing new, of course. Companies that are directly based on digital technologies are rolling over the others. Needless to say, we can all think of our own favourite product or favourite service that saves us hours of our lives. Digitisation, though, is slower at making its way into public administration. While the Estonians uploaded their entire state to the cloud some time ago, the Czech Republic is still waiting for such a significant impulse.

In many respects, the Liberec region is considered progressive, inclined towards innovation (digital innovation included). It has, for example, twice received the prestigious Smart City Innovations Institute award for its Smarter Region for the Liberec Region concept. For the first time for its concept Action Plan, for the second for pilot execution. The concept sets out the areas in which smart digital technologies will have a stronger voice in the region in the near future. “We want to support the cities and municipalities in our region during the digitisation process, and will be delighted should they turn to us and our Regional Development Agency with confidence,” comments Jiří Ulvr, Regional Councillor for the Ministry of Economic and Regional Development, European Projects, Planning and Rural Development.

It was in this vein that the Regional Development Agency, owned by the Region and the leader of the DIH Northeast consortium, held a professional conference at the beginning of June on the topic of digital technologies that help modernise the management of cities and municipalities. Around fifty delegates, mainly from regional authorities, cities, and municipalities, gathered at the IGI VRATISLAVICE hall to hear about a cross-section of available possibilities and sources of financing. 

Alan Fabík from Hardwario introduced boxes that work miracles even in the most inhospitable places on the planet, at little cost and with low energy consumption. The devices which the startup sells successfully are concealed under the cipher of IoT – Internet of Things. “We reach a diverse range of customers with our technology. At one side of the spectrum, we monitor the performance of machines in factories for manufacturing companies, at the other the climate in vineyards for Moravian winemaker,” says Alan in pointing out the real-life use of the product made by this Liberec startup. It is able, for example, to bring the collection of traffic data, the collection of data from the operation of public buildings (e.g., energy consumption), and the collection of data on the movement of worn bridge structures to the mosaic of smart cities.

The latter topic was elaborated in detail by Petr Klokočník from partner startup Statotest. After all, his motto after the fall of a bridge in Genoa back in 2018 became “So no more bridges will fall”. Petr’s startup already monitors dozens of bridge structures in the Czech Republic and beyond, and his ideas have reached the British Financial Times.

The third topic of discussion at the conference was waste management, which is expected to undergo significant legislative change this decade. Municipalities will be pushed to increase the efficiency of waste collection and sorting. Should they fail, they run the risk of significant increases in costs. Solutions do exist, however, backed up by modern digital technologies. The sensor mix presented by Petr Karásek from Inisoft provides an ultimate overview of the movement of the waste collection service, the filling of containers, and other key parameters, all designed to increase the efficiency of a municipality’s waste management. 

Energy, currently of particular interest due to the rocketing prices of electricity, gas, and other resources, was another key topic on the agenda, with architect Martin Jindrák outlining the fundamental question of “how to begin” at the conference. Monitoring is (again) crucial when looking at an uneconomical building through which energy “flows” haphazardly. Underneath, there is a set of actions that can be employed to successfully map those wasteful (yet unidentifiable) energy flows and ensure that interventions lead to real efficiency gains.

The vision of a smart transport system inspired by the principle of “Mobility as a Service (MaaS)” was presented by Pavel Tuž from the home region’s KORID and by Jiří Hruboň, the former director of the organisation. This principle is based on “door to door” transport that combines its individual, shared, and collective forms, all driven by smart technology. For example, the customer uses a tool (an application) that finds the best way of getting to wherever he/she needs to go in line with his/her preferences. “If he’s made of sterner stuff, he can set up the app to offer him a shared bicycle, even if it’s raining heavily. If she’s a manager and needs to prepare some documents in the morning before a meeting in Prague, it will offer her a bus where she will have peace and quiet,” says Jiří Hruboň in describing how such a tailor-made service might look.

The final element of technology presented was software used by councils and assemblies to digitise their meetings and a website for citizens, which will facilitate communication between citizens and their municipalities. All this presented by Jaroslav Látal from Datron, Česká Lípa. The conference was subsequently brought to a close by a pair of presentations by the Integrated Regional Operational Programme and the State Environmental Fund on an entirely crucial topic: Where to find the money? The icing on the cake then came with a tour of IGI Vratislavice, a beautiful building from the Atakarchitekti studio, recently awarded the main prize in the Karel Hubáček Competition. 

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