For the third edition of our smart cities of central eastern Europe week I thought that we would move to Romania and take a look at what has been deemed by some “the silicon valley of eastern Europe” – Cluj-Napoca. It is also the first time this week that we are not focussing on a capital city. Cluj-Napoca is Romania’s second city and as you might have guessed from the silicon valley tag it is a big technology hub.
The city has identified 5 main pillars to assist in its transformation towards becoming a real smart city, these pillars are: transport & mobility, citizen engagement, energy, infrastructure and improving access to internet. As a technology hub the last one is a must if the quality of life for all citizens is to be improved.
City hall has recently launched the “My Cluj” app which is available to all citizens that have a smartphone, it is free of charge and allows citizens to interact directly with the city administration. If citizens see a problem around the city then they can report it, (eg: a pothole that needs fixing or some vandalism that needs to be repaired) and then the administration can make sure that the problem is fixed.
Such schemes are great for citizen engagement as they put the power into the hands of the citizens and make them feel like they can make a difference to their city. The things that are reported are usually small things, but by starting off small the social responsibility of citizens will start to increase and that can only be a good thing. The most important aspect from the city here though is action. There needs to be relatively quick responses to the problems that are highlighted by citizens because if that does not happen and people see that they are raising issues and nothing is happening then such an app can have the opposite effect and cause citizens to disengage.
The city administration is planning to implement a smart parking system in the city centre, this will also be accessible via an app and will allow citizens to know where the available parking spaces are at any given time. All payments can be made online or via the app and this issues them with the ticket. If you have ever visited Romania then you will know that cash is still very much king amongst the older generations, but the younger generations have no problem making payments online and via apps, so city hall needs to make sure that this system works for everyone and not only the young. Technology should not go hand in hand with social exclusion.
This type of smart parking system is very much the future and will allow the process to be more efficient, a decrease in pollution as drivers will know where parking spaces are and it will most likely mean an increase in revenues as the system is easier to use.
Alongside this initiative they have recently purchase 10 electric buses and have intentions to purchase another 20 to add to their public transport fleet.
The city centre has electric buses which are powered from overhead cables, but by purchasing the newer models the city is showing that they want to make their overall public transport system as carbon friendly as possible.
There are quite a number of other initiatives that city hall is running such as bicycle share schemes, energy efficient public lighting, ecological construction schemes and the launch of a lot of new digital services. It seems that Cluj-Napoca is using the “silicon valley” tag to its advantage and putting technology to good use across the city, of course planning to do things is one thing and delivery them is another, but they look like they are on the right track.