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Süderbrarup is Becoming Smart

In the background is a body of water, in the foreground a graphic illustrating the different areas of the Smart City.

Süderbrarup takes a holistic view of becoming a smart city, at different levels of life in the community. Photo: Amt Süderbrarup

13 municipalities, less than 12,000 inhabitants and just 78 people per square kilometer: At first glance, Süderbrarup is perhaps not the region where one would expect strong ambitions to become a smart city. However, like all other cities and regions in Germany, the Süderbrarup administration must face the challenges of the future, and this cannot be done without digital transformation, Nicole Döpp, project manager at the Süderbrarup office, is certain: "In rural areas, there is often a gap between city center and countryside and a need for improved services. Here, we see digitalization as an effective tool to address these challenges and improve the quality of life for citizens. In our opinion, the integration of modern technologies can make administration more efficient. It helps to optimize services and increase agility in rural areas. Digitalization can help bridge large geographical distances and improve services of general interest."

Mobility as a key topic

Mobility is a key area in Süderbrarup. Although there is a good rail connection to Flensburg and Kiel, the district generally has few public transport options, Süderbrarup writes in its own smart city strategy.

For this reason, the DorfSHUTTLE is one of the first projects to be implemented on the road to the Smart City: "This project is an excellent example of demand-driven mobility in rural areas," emphasizes Döpp. "The Smart DorfSHUTTLE enables on-demand transport, where citizens can book mobility whenever they need it. This helps improve mobility in Süderbrarup and address the challenges of the rural environment." The DorfSHUTTLE is booked either via the NAH.SHUTTLE app or by phone call. It has no timetable because it only goes where it is called, so that empty runs can be avoided. The trip with the DorfSHUTTLE is paid for via app or directly to the driver, and if several people in the municipality have the same destination, the trips are simply combined, creating a kind of digital ride-sharing bank system.

The Digital Center Amt Süderbrarup (DiZ) is another project that has already been implemented, as Süderbrarup is becoming the Smart City. The DiZ was opened about a year ago and is a place for digital participation: "Here, citizens have the opportunity to actively engage with digitalization topics. The DiZ offers a makerspace where people can try things out and get creative with technology. It also serves as a focal point for digital education and innovation, and it promotes digital skills." Craftsmen can rebuild spare parts here with qualified help, startups can experiment, or schools can tinker to their heart's content.

"These two examples show how Süderbrarup has already successfully implemented smart projects to improve citizens' quality of life and actively promote digitalization," says Döpp.

Smart City with Smart People

A major goal in Süderbrarup is to closely involve local people in the digital transformation process. For this reason, workshops and brainstorming sessions were offered right from the start, in which citizens could contribute their topics, wishes, but also fears. Döpp says, "The reactions of the people in our region to our Smart Region project are naturally diverse and range from enthusiasm to skepticism. However, it is crucial that we involve citizens from the very beginning and make them feel that their opinion is of great importance. We have found that enthusiasm is highest among those who directly benefit from the positive impact of our smart city initiatives. For example, many citizens have been pleased with demand-responsive mobility or the digital center."

However, particularly older people are often afraid of being left behind in the digital transformation. The Süderbrarup administration has taken a number of measures here to reach all age groups and not exclude anyone:

Digital consultation hours "We offer a digital consultation hour where everyone has the opportunity to talk about digital topics and problems with end devices in a personal 1:1 conversation. This allows older people to get individual support and answers to their questions."

Senior tablet courses "As part of our project, we launched senior tablet courses. These courses help older people learn basic digital skills, such as how to operate tablets and use apps. This helps develop their digital competencies and give them confidence in using technology."

Accessible communications "When communicating our Smart Region initiative, we take care to use language and formats that are understandable and accessible to older people. For example, we consider printed materials, telephone information and personal addresses to ensure that all citizens are reached."

Active involvement "We actively encourage older people to participate in our projects and workshops. Their experiences and perspectives are valuable, and we want to make sure they're involved in shaping our smart city."

In addition, the use of the project management tool "Stackfield" has proven its worth in Süderbrarup: "This tool helps us organize tasks, create schedules and track the progress of projects," says Döpp. However, she also emphasizes that what has proven successful in Süderbrarup cannot be transferred 1:1 to all other municipalities in Germany: "Every city or region has the chance to shape its own path to becoming a Smart Region, based on its unique circumstances and goals. We encourage other regions to follow this path and are happy to provide support and share experiences."

Smart City, Smart Region, Smart Future

Even though the funding period for Smart City Süderbrarup ends in 2026, the project will still not come to an end, says Döpp: "The path to becoming a smart city or smart region is a continuous process that must constantly evolve and adapt to changing technological, social and economic developments. It is important to recognize that technology is evolving rapidly and projects that are considered innovative today may become obsolete in a few years. Therefore, the transformation to a smart city or region is a long-term and ongoing process that requires constant adaptation and evolution."

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