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Mayor pledges local support for EU Digital Cities campaign

06 December 2018

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane Councillor John Boyle, has joined first citizens from across Europe in signing a special Memorandum of Understanding between cities participating in the Digital Cities Challenge.

Mayor Boyle attended a high-level summit in Brussels this week centred around knowledge sharing and collaboration on the digital transformation of Europe driven by the participating cities. The civic representatives gave their commitment to promoting further cooperation on digital transformation and smart growth by signing the MOU, in what was a significant move for the network.

Kicking off a full day of presentations and panel discussions, Markku Markkula, Vice-President of the European Committee of the Regions and Rapporteur for Digital Europe, opened proceedings at the summit by calling it a “revolutionary step forward for the cities”.

Each of the civic leaders presented their city’s visions for digital transformation in a series of panel sessions.

Speaking after the event, Mayor Boyle said the summit presented a great opportunity to share strategies and build a network of digitally focused cities across Europe.

“I was delighted to attend the summit and to present our own strategy for digital innovation and development for the North West,” he declared.

“Enhancing our digital capabilities is a key element of our Strategic Growth Plan and also our Bid Proposal for a City Deal for Derry and Strabane, and much work is already underway in designing a strong framework for that strategy working in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.

“Priority areas already identified are the need to create a service-driven smart city environment that is inclusive, transparent and sustainable, using existing and future datasets and technologies to support and improve the lives of citizens and businesses. “The creation of a continuously evolving digital skills environment that delivers the inclusive talent pipeline needed by employers, is also a key focus, along with establishing a Digital Creative Hub appealing to the leading creative and non-creative software companies.”

During the summit, Director for Innovation and Advanced Manufacturing at the European Commission, Slawomir Tokarski, highlighted the importance of merging Digital, Industrial and Urban policy. He also invited the participants to inspire and learn from each other to make the Digital Cities Challenge stronger and to better to respond to societal challenges. An overview of the Digital Cities Challenge so far and the vision ahead was also given by Dana Eleftheriadou, Head of Advanced Technologies Team at European Commission.

The cities agreed to implement a number of approaches to foster dynamic innovation ecosystems and utilise cutting-edge technologies. These included: Developing and testing novel policy initiatives in a collaborative approach with other cities to reap the benefits of digital transformation; Reinforcing collaboration among technology and innovation centres, to provide first-class services to businesses and citizens by promoting demand-based development models; Cooperating on new business models and partnerships to develop local excellence, knowhow and talents, support entrepreneurship and the upskilling of the workforce.

As part of the agreement, the mayors also committed to regularly assessing the achievements and progress of the Declaration of Cooperation and the adoption of appropriate actions supporting digital transformation and the opportunities and challenges related.