Smart City Zagreb

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This week we are taking a look at some cities in central & eastern Europe and how they are looking to implement smart city technologies in different areas. The cities in central & eastern Europe face very different challenges to those in Western Europe, but as the majority of the cities would be classified as small to medium sized cities we believe that they have a great opportunity to make a real difference to the quality of life of their citizens.

In this article we will take an in-depth look at Zagreb. The capital of Croatia is also its largest city (population at the 2011 census was almost 800,000), they are currently planning  how to put technology at the forefront of the challenges they face of a growing urban population, seeking intelligent solutions and technological development that allow for  energy saving and a reduction in pollution.

Croatia as a whole is leading the way when it comes to transparency on budget. They have an open budget application or portal that allow citizens to see exactly where their tax money is being spent – this is a positive step as it allows citizens to have a greater understanding of what certain services cost. It is also a big help in building trust between the city administrations and citizens. This is something that already has been implemented in individual cities and counties of Croatia.

Zagreb like most cities is struggling with traffic problems, the northern and southern parts of the city are connected by 3 bridges over the river Sava, this causes problems as traffic always ends up in the same 3 places. They are currently looking at options to build a 4th bridge that will help to ease the congestion, but the city should not only be focussing on building a new bridge, but how they can encourage citizens to leave their cars at home and make more use of the public transport system. This would help to solve the problem and not only put a plaster over the problem – there are lots of smart solutions that they could look at from a transportation perspective that could help with this issue.

Zagreb is trying to encourage the growth of startups and has run a number of different competitions in order to encourage smart city solutions in specific areas. For example last year they ran a Startup Factory competition that was focussed on smart city solutions for the tourism industry – it was the first no equity program of its type in Zagreb. They highlighted a list of key focus areas that startup programs should focus on and then assessed each one before picking a number of them that would receive funding to get their projects off the ground. Such projects have a number of positive effects, firstly they help to kick start the local startup community which in turn creates jobs and an economic boost, secondly it helps the city to provide solutions for tourists that help them when they are visiting the city. The program was run in partnership with IBM, T-Systems and SmartIS and was supported by city hall.

Zagreb is starting its journey towards becoming a smart city, everyone has to start somewhere and we think that having a focus on the startup community will allow them to benefit from smart solutions, increase economic development and encourage innovation across all aspects of the city.