Shortly after the municipal elections in Bulgaria, a new strategy for the digital transformation of the capital city Sofia was presented. Enabling local IT and startup companies to supply digital products to the city, is one of the stated missions of the strategy.
The team of Sofia Investment Agency, that released the strategy after 18 months of meetings and workshops with different stakeholders of the innovation ecosystem in the city has identified four focus areas where particular actions are needed. Three of them are on the demand side: e-Government, Energy and Water, and Transport. And one is on the supply side – the local ICT and startup ecosystem. In other words, the agency hopes to be able to find a way to bridge the digitalization needs of the city in these three domains with local innovative solution providers.
Thus, if it’s correctly implemented the strategy could break the vicious circle of a group of companies serving the digital needs of the municipality, sources, who were part of the strategy development, tell us. This would allow also startups to have a local market and impact, instead of exporting all their innovation.
Particular projects for the next three years
A draft roadmap outlining particular projects that should be implemented in the next three years was also published as part of the strategy. According to it, the first topics to be addressed in 2020 are the development of an e-platform for schools that would improve the electronic communication between teachers, parents, and students; and the creation of a new digital platform for contracts and public tenders, aimed at more effective control over the conditions and performance of contractors.
Оne of the rather surprising projects listed in the strategy for the first half of 2020 is the development of a rideshare platform. The pilot project, described in the strategy, is to build a platform for shared electric cars for a certain number of residential buildings in selected neighborhoods (not mentioned in the strategy), with the goal to reduce the negative environmental footprint of the over one million registered cars in Sofia. What stands behind this idea is yet to be clarified.
A digital twin, that would use real-time data of the city to help to develop urban policies and new integrated mobility platform are also among the listed projects. Yet, all of them are indicative, and the realization will depend on various factors. Not least, on the participation of the business and citizens, the Sofia Investment Agency states and invites stakeholders to actively contact the agency and participate in working groups.
Resulting from the European Digital Cities Challenge
In January 2018 Sofia Investment Agency, on behalf of Sofia Municipality, won a place in the Digital Cities Challenge Project, an initiative of the European Commission. The goal of the challenge was to support the city in building a Digital Transformation Strategy via the provision of expert assistance and help from mentor cities. Sofia’s mentoring cities in the process were Amsterdam, Barcelona, Hamburg, Lisbon, Nice, and Espoo.
As a result in mid-2019, the agency, which is not a political structure and features a team of businesspeople, whose main goal is to position Sofia as an investment destination, published the Digital Transformation Strategy of Sofia.
After being re-elected, the Sofia mayor Yordanka Fandakova said that there will be a new role in the municipality – a deputy mayor, responsible for the Digital Transformation of the city. Local media hint that the new role will be taken by the CEO of Sofia Investment Agency – Vladimir Danailov.