“If we simply digitise an ineffective process, we will still have an ineffective process that is digital”
The City of Sofia is encouraging innovation in the city and testing innovative tech solutions to address urban challenges related to such topics as ecology, education, transport or entrepreneurship.
During the CC4DR’s Deep Dive of March, “Sofia’s Sandbox for Innovative Solutions: Thinking Global, Acting Local”, the team of the “Digitalisation, Innovation and Investments” directorate - also known as Innovative Sofia- presented the programme and shared the progress of the pilot projects implemented as a part of it. The innovative Sandbox was presented by Dobrinka Blagova, Director of Innovative Sofia; Ana D. Georgieva, Senior Expert; Slaveya Georgieva, Senior Expert and Velko Velkov, Senior Expert.
With the Sandbox for Innovative Solutions, Sofia aims to become a testing platform for innovative products and services, as well as to support the development of the local ICT and entrepreneurial ecosystem and to generate data to scale up or export these products or services. The programme is a part of the Action Plan for the Implementation of the Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia (DTSS). The city administration, together with the business in Sofia, look for solutions related to modern challenges of key importance for Sofia’s residents,
The Sandbox is always open to new proposals from the local ecosystem and Innovative Sofia both maintains an active communication with the local ecosystem and coordinates the internal processes with the municipal administration and the City Council. The proposals and ongoing projects are assessed through the Methodology for Assessment of Projects in the Field of Digitalization and Intelligent Urban Solutions, developed by Innovative Sofia, in collaboration with the European Investment Bank, Deloitte and the Project Information and Finance Division of the Fund of Funds. This methodology assesses the projects using 56 criteria about their eligibility, scalability and overall fitness and alignment with the city’s strategy.
Smart Utilities in Kindergartens
One of the projects that has been implemented through the Sandbox is Smart Utilities in Kindergartens aimed at increasing energy efficiency in kindergartens by producing “green” energy through photovoltaic panels and optimising costs, so that each facility is able to meet its own energy needs, control electricity and water costs remotely. It also includes a system to monitor air quality called “The Canary System”, through which sensors measure air quality indicators, that translate to a monitor that shows a cartoon of a bird that gives signals and information, should the air quality drop. The Canary is lively and happy if the air quality is good, and asleep or worried if the quality becomes bad, which allows children (as well as the teachers) to be aware of the air quality in real time -a revolutionary approach with educational and cultural impact - not just merely operational one.
Services going digital: civil marriage, address registration and school enrollment
Sofia is digitising services and administrative procedures in a user-friendly and human-centric way. Portals to carry out administrative procedures related to key life events such as civil marriage procedures or registering a new address have been set up. These platforms are tailored to citizens and aim at achieving progressiveresults, reducing the time and costs of carrying out such procedures in a non-digitised way.
Sofia has also set up an e-System for first grade admission and enrollment in municipal kindergartens and nurseries. The system is integrated within the country’s registers and databases with which the applicant’s data is checked, and it includes a map and information about the vacancies in nurseries, kindergartens and schools. In addition to that, the system is designed to be fully digital, intuitive, easy to use and to avoid human error and potential abuse.
Digitalisation is an ongoing process
The City of Sofia understands digitalisation as a means for making citizens’ lives easier and improving the quality of life in the city, and as an ongoing process that involves co-creating solutions with all the stakeholders involved. That is why communicating and coordinating with other levels of administration, other municipal departments, the local ecosystem, citizens and the international community is at the core of the work Innovative Sofia carries out.
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