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October 22, 2019

People want digitalisation to speed up in their home town

Digitalisation must become a top priority for local government

Above all, people want eGovernment

Three-day Smart Country Convention opens today in Berlin

From smart local government to intelligent traffic control – in Germany many cities and municipalities are working towards a digital future. Two out of three people (66 per cent) believe in their local government’s ability to deal with digital topics in a competent manner. At the same time, 69 per cent want digitalisation to speed up in their home town. These are the findings of a representative survey commissioned by the digital association Bitkom, which polled over 1,000 people aged over 18 in Germany. The survey is being presented today at the Smart Country Convention in Berlin. “In most cities and municipalities all the signs point to digitalisation making progress. City halls now have to justify the faith the populace has placed in them. This will make cities more attractive for business, increase the quality of life and bring them closer to people and companies,” said Achim Berg, president of Bitkom. “Municipalities need the money, expertise and for there to be a dialogue between people, political decision-makers and local business. The Smart Country Convention brings us closer to a digital world.“

From 22 to 24 October the Smart Country Convention in Berlin will gather more than 10,000 figures representing politics, business, cities and municipalities. The aim is to learn from the best, speed up digitalisation and implement it according to people’s needs. Dr. Christian Göke, Chief Executive Officer of Messe Berlin: “What is special about the Smart Country Convention is that it embraces every sector. This is not just about digitalisation of local government. The event highlights every area of smart cities and regions. Our aim is to present how this topic affects every part of the value chain and to integrate the relevant partners. In doing so the second edition has already become the leading event on this subject in Germany. We are not just talking about digitalisation. We are taking concrete examples and showing how it works.”

This year, Lithuania is the partner country pointing the way forward at the Smart Country Convention. Deividas Matulionis, Vice-chancellor of the Republic of Lithuania: “In Lithuania, digitalisation has played a big part in successfully developing the economy and information society. Our membership of the EU has removed political obstacles. A digital world enables us to overcome national borders and bureaucratic hurdles and to constantly improve and expand the economy and public sector. We believe in Germany’s ability to be one of the EU’s countries leading the way forward in digitalisation. Both the Lithuanian government and economy want to be a strong partner of Germany, by creating digital solutions and expanding electronic services, for example. We will be sharing our experiences in the fields of digital services, the smart city and cybersecurity at the Smart Country Convention and are looking forward to meeting interested visitors."

More than one in two people say their city is “not digitalised“

Six out of ten people (63 per cent) say the idea of living in a city or municipality with electronic services appeals to them. Despite nationwide efforts in recent years to create smart cities, one in two German citizens (56 per cent) say “my city has not been digitalised.“ Despite this, more than two-thirds (37 per cent) think that digitalisation has made good progress where they live. According to Germans, the areas in their home towns where improvements are most needed are housing (86 per cent), local government (79 per cent), transport (78 per cent), public safety (77 per cent) and the environment (76 per cent). 

People are convinced that digitalisation is an opportunity for communities

Urban and rural communities are facing big challenges, and in the view of many digitalisation could help – that is the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the population. Eight out of ten German citizens (81 per cent) agree that towns and communities where services are inadequate could benefit from digitalisation. Two-thirds (64 per cent) say that digital technology such as surveillance cameras could benefit public safety. Six out of ten are convinced that digitalisation presents a big opportunity for improving the quality of life in urban and rural areas.

Nonetheless, there are those who are critical and have reservations. 71 per cent are worried that digitalisation in cities and municipalities will make their personal data less safe. 62 per cent take the view that digitalisation will hinder interpersonal communications. And six out of ten German citizens say that, as with other large-scale projects, digitalisation efforts carry a risk of failure. “People have split views on digitalisation: on the one hand they are convinced of the opportunities, on the other they see the potential risks“, said Berg. “We have to give data protection a lot of thought when developing smart cities and regions – that is something we can learn from Lithuania too. At the same time we must make people more aware of pioneering cities and smart city initiatives in Germany, and highlight how digitalisation is functioning well in many places.“

Smart cities have a better environment, digitalised villages more skilled workers

Digitalisation has the ability to help solve specific problems in urban and rural areas. People see it as having the biggest potential in urban areas, with new mobility and transport concepts (73 per cent), and lessening the workload of local government (71 per cent). Nearly two-thirds (64 per cent) believe that digitalisation will improve the economy, and 62 per cent see advantages in reducing the amount of traffic. Close to two-thirds (65 per cent) hope that rural areas will attract more business. Over half (62 per cent) see yet another advantage in new mobility concepts being able to improve public transport services. For one in two people (53 per cent) the hope is that digitalisation will make local communities more attractive to specialists such as doctors and IT professionals. A similar number (47 per cent) believe that as a result of digitalisation medical care will improve in rural areas. Berg: “Digital solutions can help to overcome distances, with regard to medical care, education, services for citizens and work. Nowhere are distances greater than in rural areas. At the Smart Country Convention our aim is to make social conditions in urban and rural areas more equal in a digital world.“

People want to communicate online with their local authorities

Digitalising the overloaded offices of local government would be a big step in the direction of a “smart country“. A large majority of German citizens want local government to be digitalised. Four out of five (89 per cent) would prefer it if documents such as passports and personal IDs could be applied for, extended and mailed to them automatically. 84 per cent would like to deal with the authorities and local government over the internet, e.g. for registering their place of residence or applying for child support. 77 per cent would use a common website in order to identify themselves securely and access the full range of electronic services offered by local government.  Two-thirds (60 per cent) would be prepared to identify themselves securely via the internet using their electronic personal ID. Four out of ten citizens (41 per cent) would be willing to fill in personal information once in order for it to be subsequently shared by local authorities. “Smart solutions and the necessary means to create a ‘State 4.0’ have been in place for a long time, but local government is still waiting on digitalisation“, said Berg. “Many of the services currently available are needlessly complicated. Communications with local authorities via the internet must be user-oriented, make economic sense and be sustainable in the long term. What we need are Germany-wide standards to make sure that digitalisation does not have to be re-invented in 11,000 municipalities.“

Majority support for public participation online

People have a good idea of the life a digitalised city can offer and want to be a bigger part of it. Nine out of ten interviewees (90 per cent) would like to be more involved in local decision-making. 73 per cent would like to electronically report things that do not work in the public sphere. Two-thirds (67 per cent) would like to be able to make suggestions online to improve the quality of local life. One in two (49 per cent) would like to participate online in planning and decision-making in politics and local government. 41 per cent would take the opportunity to submit their ideas on how taxes could be put to use in local budgets. Four out of ten (40 per cent) would use the internet to cast their vote in elections, and nearly one in five (19 per cent) would sign online petitions. Berg: “People’s desire to get involved is growing – and the easiest way to satisfy that is via the internet. Municipalities need to offer digitalised services nationwide to make it easier for citizens to participate and get involved.“

Smart Country Convention presents digital solutions for the public sector

Digitalisation of cities, municipalities and regions is the main topic at the Smart Country Convention, which is taking place from 22 to 24 October 2019 in Berlin, and which gathers all the relevant players representing local government, politics the digital economy, associations and science. The Smart Country Convention, which runs over three days, combines a congress, workshops, advanced training events and an exhibition. The focus is on eGovernment as well as the digitalisation of public services where energy, transport, safety, waste disposal, water supplies, education, healthcare and housing are concerned. The Smart Country Convention targets representatives at federal, state and district level, cities, municipalities and local companies. For more information please visit: www.smartcountry.berlin

Methodology: the information provided is based on a poll commissioned by the digital association Bitkom and conducted by Bitkom Research. A telephone survey was carried out among 1,004 people in Germany aged 18 or over. The findings are representative.