The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) designed Geographical Chapter Meetings to allow neighbouring cities to share about their success within ICC initiatives, provide feedback and collaborate on the best way to move forward. On 5 July 2022, representatives from the Croatian cities of Rijeka, Osijek, Split and Velika Gorica, as well as Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina) met to do just that, taking advantage of their fellow cities’ knowledge and experience.
The meeting was opened by Igor Kalinic Head of Sector, Competitiveness & Internationalisation, EISMEA who welcomed the cities. The five cities heard from Mislav Kovac, Head of Sector for coordination for European Territorial Cooperation Programmes and Macro-Regional Strategies at Ministry of Regional Development and EU Funds (MRDEUF) Croatia, about how national governments can support green and digital transitions. Martin Zagar, PhD., an Associate Professor of Computer Science, at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) Croatia spoke about how academia can aid with open data platforms. Lastly, rounding out the guest speakers, Wout Steurs, EU Business Development Project Manager at KPMG’s EU office in Brussels talked about EU financing opportunities available to Croatian cities. Then, city representatives dove into a discussion about current challenges, best practices and project updates.
Rijeka, a mentor city with previous participation in the Digital Cities Challenge which helped it to gain experience in the field, shared how the city has focused on developing digital and collaborative governance tools. This has resulted in their Open Data portal and the Centre of Competence (CEKOM). The city elaborated on some of the insights they gained through the process. First, it was emphasised that having a designated team for projects such as these, as well as listening to citizen feedback, were both helpful tactics. Now in use, CEKOM facilitates effective stakeholder collaboration and citizen engagement. The Open Data platform has been most heavily utilised by community members to navigate public transport, view the city budget and locate business spaces.
The core cities of Croatia are also introducing innovative new solutions. It is clear that the cities share an institutional priority of enabling their communities to achieve green and digital objectives, with carbon neutrality as the end goal. In pursuit of this goal, the cities have found effective resources. They agreed that EU national programmes that are inclusive of cities and offer plenty of knowledge exchange opportunities have made the digital transition easier. Further, the valuable resources offered by ICC were credited – namely its ability to identify solutions.
Discussion amongst the cities also revealed a consensus on a few key challenges, including regulatory framework and public procurement constraints, integration of tech solutions among different vendors and successfully applying for financing for solutions. The cities also identified information symmetry, human capital development and financing and investment models as areas in need of improvement.
Going forward, the five cities present at the meeting planned to explore the ways that the ICC can continue to help cities navigate available funding opportunities. They suggested a central financing platform, as well as continued collaboration with mentor cities and use of open-source solutions.
The ICC values the insights derived from the Geographical Chapter Meetings, which helps to make knowledge sharing more effective and accessible to the entire ICC network.