On June 5, 2019, a high-level conference ‘Digital Cities Challenge: A strategy for EU cities in the 21st Century’ concluded the Digital Cities Challenge – a project of the European Commission. The event celebrated the work of the participating cities on the development of their individual Strategies for Digital Transformation.
Sofia was invited to present its work at the exhibition area of the event along with other participating cities: Rijeka, Alicante, L’Aquila, Nice, Thessaloniki, Espoo and Pori.
As part of the conference programme, CEO Vladimir Danailov shared Sofia’s experience in working with key city stakeholders to create the Strategy for Digital Transformation for Sofia. Mr. Danailov joined the discussion “Success stories of market creation through the Digital Cities Challenge initiative” part of the “Cities as market creators” session.
The ICT sector in Sofia is very well-developed and consists close to 20% of the city’s economy. However, the majority of ICT companies in Sofia are export-oriented, meaning that they do not create products or services for the local market. As identified in the Strategy for Digital Transformation for Sofia, the city should aim to create opportunities for the local ICT sector to get involved in solving local challenges and to use the city as a test ground for new digital services. In order to achieve that, the Strategy recommends the creation of two new divisions as part of the Municipality – Sofia Digital Agency and Sofia Digital Officer. Those teams are going to be responsible for identifying the needs of the local market and managing the process of digitalisation both within the Municipality and in the city in general. In addition, Sofia Municipality is already supporting local startups through its new program Sofia Startup Accelerator by providing funding and mentoring and encouraging entrepreneurs to use Sofia’s infrastructure to build and test their products locally. Sofia Investment Agency is happy that more than 100 local stakeholders took part in the development of the city’s Strategy.
Watch the video from the “Cities as Market Creators” panel.
All participants’ Strategies have been submitted to the European Commission and are expected to be published by the end of this month. In the meantime, Sofia Investment Agency is preparing a Bulgarian version of its document.
The event brought together 450 city representatives, industry and business experts, smart city practitioners, international organizations, and EU, national and local policy makers. As every ending brings a new beginning, we look forward to the Intelligent Cities programme – a successor initiative expected to start in December 2019 by bringing together cities from the Digital Cities Challenge and 50 more newcomer participants.