The Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) and the Smart Specialisation Platform are jointly developing measures to support Member States and regions in developing Digital Growth Strategies. As part of this work and in cooperation with Lodzkie Region and Lodz Univeristy of technology an outreach event on ICT strategies and tools for regional growth was arranged in Lodz, Poland the 17-18th of September
At the event examples of how digital growth strategies are developed and interesting cases of policy measures in different thematic areas being deployed in European regions and states were presented and discussed. Here follows a summary of the discussions of Lodzkie's strategy.
Lodzkie's ICT specialisation within their broader regional innovation strategy LORIS 2030
The discussion of Lodzkie's ICT specialisation within their broader regional innovation strategy LORIS 2030 focused on three main issues: (a) ways to promote and develop training programmes for ICT professionals and eSkills, (b) ways to publicly support open data applications (for health and transport), and finally (c) the creation of an ecosystem for supporting the development of ICT entrepreneurship. Each issue was discussed in separate groups. As a first step, participants discussed how they understood the question and what the real issue behind the question was. Then they developed policy recommendations for Lodzkie Region. The final part of the discussion provided lessons learnt.
The discussion about the first question resulted in a long list of questions which emerged. They were addressed by several recommendations. The main concerns were: (a) motivation of ICT professionals to improve their skills, (b) different interests of universities and needs of companies, (c) quality of curricula and the consideration of development of soft skills for ICT professionals (incl. entrepreneurial skills). It was recommended to deepen the cooperation within the ICT Cluster in order to look for more common ground and creating lifelong learning curricula. Additionally, it was suggested to set up an alumni network and thus enhance and sustain the new educational culture in the region (starting as early as primary education).
The participants dealing with the second question underlined that even if there were good ICT systems and applications (possibly provided by businesses), there is no guarantee that people will also use them. While there is an identified need to support digital solutions for accessing health and transport data (esp. in non-urban areas), it should be carefully assessed whether to have public authorities develop such tools themselves or rather incentivise companies to do so. The main recommendations for this point were: do small pilot ICT projects in Lodzkie Region on health and transport (via hackathons or similar tools) and up-scale to other regions if successful, and raise the interest and build digital skills for future users. Ensuring regions and the national level apply interoperable solutions is crucial in this endeavour.
The group which dealt with the last question underlined that real support involves more than just providing financial incentives. A legal framework and support of networking is as well important. As policy recommendations participants suggested improving business regulation, reducing administrative burden, improving procedures and increasing the demand of citizens on advanced digital services. The main lesson learnt was the forward-looking approach to the digital strategies considering business needs.
Discussions in detail
QUESTION 1: How can regional authorities support the training of professional staff for the ICT sector? What kind of systems of education and retraining are there good examples of in other European countries?
Issues behind this question:
What are the motivation and purpose of students to study longer or participate in the retraining courses? How to make university curricula more attractive? How to reconcile students' need to learn and earn?
What is more useful for the development of their professional career: training at university or training at work?
How to link scientific interests of universities with business needs?
The importance of well-designed curricula.
The university approach to the development of students' own ideas.
The list of the following recommendation emerged from the discussion:
Identify additional common interests with the ICT Cluster beyond employability.
Focus on the continuous education path in close cooperation with the ICT Cluster.
Set and enhance academic entrepreneurial incubators.
Establish an alumni network. Monitor the career development of graduates. Look for talents and success stories and show them publicly.
Enhance the education culture around universities starting from primary and secondary schools.
Underline the unique selling point of Lodz Technical University: high employability for low fees.
Be open to teach soft skills e.g.: project management, presentation skills, language & entrepreneurship.
Lighthouse keepers are severely needed but they need support from public administration to keep the momentum for reform.
QUESTION 2: What kind of ICT and methods can be used to improve the quality and catalogue of services in governing a region? What kind of business and information management systems can be adapted in the field of transportation and medical services?
Issues behind this question:
Transport and health are important areas where new IT and mobile solutions are needed. Using public transport in rural areas is aggravated by the lack of a unified information system that covers all relevant service providers. Receiving medical services from different doctors and health service providers is hampered by the lack of a unified data exchange system.
One Polish region can have the same population size like smaller Baltic countries (e.g. Lithuania and Estonia), but it depends much more on the upper level government for statewide and effective solutions. Comparing Polish regions with Baltic countries is difficult since these countries can more easily decide national policies that ensure interoperable ICT infrastructures. Regional authorities, on the other hand, have to coordinate their actions both with other regions and the national level to guarantee interoperability.
National policies and standards are needed to ensure interoperability.
Taking predominant and widely applied standards into account, regional authorities should start a pilot project which can eventually be scaled up later on.
Public administration should refrain from developing own IT tools if better and more cost-effective applications can be developed by businesses.
Having good applications does not guarantee service up-take – some people (esp. elderly) do not use online applications. This is why the main target for online services should be the younger generations, who in turn ought to be encouraged to help their older family members use online services. At the same time, 'offline' alternatives must be offered so that older citizens are not left behind.
The open data platforms like www.publicdata.eu provide many templates for IT solutions that are cost-free.
QUESTION 3: What kind of framework conditions should a region put in place to attract and support the development of ICT entrepreneurs?
Issues behind this question:
What does framework mean?
It is more than just funding.
Clusters and opportunities to meet.
Introduce better regulation.
Lower administrative burdens.
Improve procedures and make them more transparent.
Trigger demand for advanced digital services by making them more user-centric and clearly showing their benefits.
Support SMEs for going online (with their own website as a minimum).
We should look forward and prepare strategy for the future which will be in line with industry and private company needs.
The Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology (DG CONNECT) and the Smart Specialisation Platform are jointly developing measures to support Member States and regions in developing Digital Growth Strategies.
As part of this work and in cooperation with Lodzkie Region, we are inviting policy-makers from EU Member States and regions to join us in this event on Digital Growth and Smart Specialisation.
The purpose of the event is to present examples of how digital growth strategies are developed and interesting cases of policy measures in different thematic areas being deployed in European regions and states. It is also an opportunity for policy-makers to exchange practices and share experiences with colleagues from other regions and EU officials.
The target group are persons involved in designing the digital growth aspects of regional and national Digital Growth Strategies or the digital chapters of broader innovation strategies for smart specialisation (RIS3).
The event will provide good examples from regions and member States such as Estonia, Lithuania, Catalonia and Lombardy and provide opportunities to share knowledge on:
The use of ICT as an enabling technology, focusing on broadband in rural areas
ICT as a specialisation
The use of appropriate policy measures
Connecting RIS3 and digital growth strategies
The event will last one day and a half. During the first day of the event, the host region of Lodzkie will present their priorities in ICT for regional development and the Polish National Strategy will be presented. This will be followed by group discussions coming up with suggestions for their strategic work, as well as time to reflect what other participants can learn from these cases.
During the second they there will be a number of good examples from regions and member States such as Estonia, Lithuania, Catalonia and Lombardy of how they have invested in ICT and how this has contributed to regional development. Each session begins with a good example, but there is also ample time for the participants to discuss the cases and explore how this can be of use for them in their own regions.
Lodz University of Technology
DG CONNECT, European Commission
S3 Platform, Joint Research Centre (JRC), European Commission
Agenda and Presentations
Agenda: Final agenda
"Digital Growth and Smart Specialisation", Bartek Tokarz, DG CONNECT
"Lodzkie - ICT as a priority for innovation", Przemek Sekalski , Lodz University of Technology