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Bad Belzig on the way to becoming a smart city

Three men sitting at a table

The team of the "Zukunftsschusterei". Image: Konrad Traupe

Bad Belzig, a district town with around 11,000 inhabitants, is located pretty much halfway between Berlin and Magdeburg. Together with Wiesenburg/Mark, the town is working on becoming a Smart City and Smart Village.

The idea came to the people of Bad Belzig and the Hohen Fläming region several years ago. A comparatively large number of people got involved in digital projects here, paving the way for the application for the "Smart City Model Project" funding program, says Konrad Traupe, project manager of Zukunftsschusterei. This is the name of the Smart City model project in Bad Belzig and Wiesenburg/Mark.

Awards for the pioneers

In 2018, the digital players were honored with the "Smart Village" award from the Medienanstalt Berlin-Brandenburg. This was followed in 2020 by recognition as a Smart City model project from the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building, which was the starting signal for the development into a Smart City and Smart Region. By 2027, around 6 million euros in funding will flow into the region to implement the measures that Bad Belzig and the municipality of Wiesenburg/Mark have developed in the joint Smart City strategy. Specifically, eight packages of measures have been developed to make life easier and better for local people:

• Management for tomorrow

• Health of the future

• Mobility/Mobility Campus

• Vital city center

• Village community centers 2.0

• Smart Village Campus

• Digital participation

• Planning with data/expansion of LoRaWAN

The overarching themes are made up of a large number of individual measures, emphasizes Traupe.

What is the difference between Smart City and Smart Village?

"In Bad Belzig and Wiesenburg/Mark, there are many 'villages', small districts with a handful of inhabitants in some cases. These 'Villages' become smart through their integration into the overall strategy and the development of synergy effects, which benefit the population in the small districts just as much as the residents in Bad Belzig city center. In addition to the size of the population, there are many other initial conditions that differ from a smart city and must be taken into account when designing and implementing smart measures. These include, for example, the sometimes long distances between districts or the important role of volunteering in urban and community development."

Although Traupe, his colleague Susan Hübner and his colleague Hendrik Kortz have active support in the implementation of the Smart City measures, the project would not succeed without the committed local people in Bad Belzig and the entire region.

From skepticism to enthusiasm

For this reason, Traupe is pleased that more and more supporters of the Smart City strategy are coming together in the region. In the beginning, the topic was viewed with skepticism and caution: "However, with every participation campaign, with every conversation, with every article in the newspaper and with every further step towards implementing the measures, we are noticing that reservations are softening and we are being met with interest and commitment. Awareness of the project is constantly increasing, but you also have to give people time to get involved."

No one is left behind

Another important point is the inclusion of older people in the Smart City projects. For example, Bad Belzig has been offering a computer course specifically for senior citizens for over a year. This allows them to get to know PCs, smartphones and tablets free of charge, gain access to the internet, try out the Bad Belzig app during the course or take part in surveys. "We set up this offer primarily because older people often feel left behind. Of course, we don't want that. On the contrary: we believe in lifelong learning," emphasizes Traupe.

Bad Belzig app - everything important in your pocket

The Bad Belzig app has been available since 2019 to make life easier for people in the town and region as well as tourists. In addition to local news and event information, the Bad Belzig app also provides access to the internet TV channel "Fläming bewegt", the administration and a defect detector. The advantage: The Bad Belzig app is an open source solution and can therefore be easily adapted by other municipalities free of charge.

The Bad Belzig app demonstrates one of the key points of the Smart City model project funding program in a practical way: cities and municipalities should be able to learn from each other and adopt tools that work well in a municipality.

Learning from each other

Bad Belzig has also been inspired by other municipalities in some areas: "In certain areas, such as the development of a health platform, the further development of data platforms or the expansion of the Bad Belzig app/Smart Village app, we are also in working groups and hope to soon be able to establish development communities with other smart cities or regions. It is always important to build on the specific needs of each location. Only in this way will digital solutions be seen as added value and accepted."

In addition to the Bad Belzig app, the region is also using other tools for the Smart City project. For example, there is a dedicated website on which all information about the Smart City is bundled together. A dedicated climate data platform collects data on precipitation, energy consumption and climate scenarios. The data is collected at countless measuring points with the help of sensors and processed in the data platform. Citizens can use the participation platform to get involved in the city's decision-making processes and give their opinion on topics such as housing or mobility.

End point 2027

The funding period for the BMWSB's Smart City model project ends in 2027. However, Traupe is certain that this will not be the end of the road to the Smart City and Smart Village: "The model project is designed to perpetuate as many of the measures as possible that have proven to be helpful and forward-looking. In other words, it goes on and on. What works well will continue after 2027. Ideally, the 'Villages' and the 'City' will continue to develop smarter and smarter, using the foundations that we are currently creating."

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