After three years of work, the EUSALP Action Group 5 (AG5) presented their results during the 8th AG5 meeting in Milan (Italy) on the occasion of the 3rd EUSALP Annual Forum.
The main results achieved in these years have been summarised in an Intermediate Report and reviewed by AG Leaders Thomas Egger and Carlo Vigna.
The presentation of the report included a review of the results achieved by AG5 in these years.
One of the most successful activities achieved is the Smart Villages initiative, which gave rise to the creation of the Alpine Space Programme project "Smart digital transformation of villages in the Alpine Space".
The project aims to apply the Smart villages approach and bring together in so-called Regional Stakeholder Groups (policy makers, business, academia and civil society) to improve the framework for innovation through new forms of stakeholder involvement facilitated by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). The project is therefore not a technology orientated project, it is a user orientated project which shall show the opportunities and potentials of digitalization for rural communities. The active involvement of this population into the elaboration of the project in the various test areas is therefore crucial.
The results expected from the project are many: the creation of 9 Regional Stakeholder Groups which will assist the assessment of smartness level of Test Areas, give input for best practices and test the Digital Exchange Platform (DEP), codesign the toolbox and facilitate the transfer of project results to the policy level; a regional analysis providing the readiness and needs for a Smart Transition in the Test Areas; the creation of a Digital Exchange Platform for the transnational knowledge sharing of the project findings within the project as well as with the wider public; the elaboration of a Toolbox to access digital tools, methods and techniques that facilitate user engagement and the development of products with high value for the SV ecosystem in all Test Areas; a policy Recommendation compiled in a synthesis report by evaluating results and effects of the project.
The Smart villages approach has many connections to other Action groups. AG5 is therefore cooperating with other AG’s on this topic. The Smart villages approach was presented at the EUSALP Annual forum in November 2017 in Munich (Germany), in June 2018 in Bard (Italy) during the Round table on Smart Villages and Digital connectivity and a major event took place in May 2019 in Courmayeur, organized by Aosta Valley Autonomous Region in the framework of the Italian presidency of EUSALP. These events gave the Smart Villages approach a high visibility and political relevance in the alpine area and contribute to sharpen the profile of EUSALP also outside the Alps.
During the Annual Forum Thomas Egger, Co-leader of AG5, presented the Smart Villages initiative during the final event of the AlpGov project and during the Plenary session: Involving stakeholders and civil society in the implementation of EUSALP.
In the field of connectivity, a topic that has been dealt with in particular by Subgroup 1, the most important result is the development of a Feasibility study on transnational connectivity in the Alps.
The study aim to support the AG5 activities, dealing with the importance of investments on digital infrastructures in mountain areas, covering the economic and technical feasibility for cross-border backbones of connectivity across the Alps. By complementing the targeted network infrastructure with distributed computing power, digital ecosystems and possible strategic applications in the field of Smart Mobility & Logistics, Smart Nature Parks, Smart Outdoor Sport Areas and Smart Villages for digital tourism and advanced agriculture, the analysis aims at supporting the Alpine region in facing major challenges, rebalancing negative demographic trends of mountain areas, attracting new residents and contrasting the combined effects of ageing and new migration models.
The analysis has mapped a sample of the existing cross-border connectivity infrastructures across the entire Alpine Region in order to provide a possible blueprint for intervention and technical replicability, providing possible guidelines for interventions and investments and defining main recommendations. These recommendations are therefore addressed not only to authorities at the EU level, but also to regional/local institutions and private organizations that share the same objectives and that can benefit for the standardization and the scalability of the suggested investments in terms of cost saving, increased efficiency and effectiveness with the help of connectivity infrastructures and digital ecosystems as development drivers.
In cooperation with AG4, as well as CIPRA International, AG5 carried out a strategic initiative on Cross-border commuter mobility within the ARPAF founds.
Cross-border mobility is a huge problem for instance in commuting. 600’000 persons cross every day a national border in the EUSALP-perimeter to go to work. Most alpine countries face a similar problem in this respect with a lack of coordinated infrastructure planning and planning of the exploitation of the networks. With this strategic initiative this lack shall be overcome and a common understanding of the topic and strategic approach to improve the situation be developed.
The main outputs of the project are:
- The first ever statistical and cartographic overview of cross-border mobility in the Alpine Region with a focus on daily commuting;
- A collection of existing solutions and potential new models for dealing with crossborder commuting;
- A toolbox with measures for sustainable commuter mobility;
- A compact on behaviour change for enterprises and for commuters, available in all alpine languages and english;
- An analysis of the legal frameworks for crossborder communting and on the potential of digitalization;
- A compendium with an overview of all results and the policy recommendations.
The models and solutions identified in the project were discussed and verified in several hotspots of crossborder commuting. These discussions with all relevant stakeholders in the hotspots gave a new dynamic to the search for crossborder solutions in these areas. They helped also to sharpen the outputs of the project and to formulate the policy recommendations. This strategic initiative has therewith laid the basis for further activities of AG4 and AG5 as well as other concerned Action Groups. The first and very obvious measure to be taken is an alpine wide harmonization of the statistical database on crossborder commuting. Furthermore, the dialogue on this topic must go on at local, regional, national and international level. EUSALP with its multilevel governance approach is the ideal place to pursue this dialogue and strive for common solutions. AG4 will therefore install a new subgroup to continue the dialogue. These two and the other recommendations were discussed at the closing event of the project on 29 November 2019 in Milan, back to back with the Annual Forum of EUSALP. The full recommendations and all other results of this strategic initiative can be found on https://www.alpine-region.eu/projects/arpaf-crossborder
The Smart SME's initiative, as a new project developed in collaboration with AG2 and AG3, aims to develop a partnership to understand to what extent SMEs that produce, process and apply natural fibres use digitalization tools and approaches. The project will also evaluate obstacles that prevent SMEs from exploiting the full potential of digital solutions. The Smart SMEs project - cofinanced by the European Parliament through the Alpine Region Preparatory Action Fund (ARPAF) - will contribute to finding solutions to overcome existing barriers. The SAB led project will be specifically focusing on enterprises in biobased value chains that produce, process and apply natural fibre-based materials, both cultivated and recycled from biological waste. The project is therefore tackling the idea of sustainable transformation in the Alpine region through the bioeconomy concept. This will involve gathering existing digitalization knowledge from research institutions, clusters, digital innovation hubs and other service providers, evaluating the digitalization level of SMEs, pinpointing issues that hamper the implementation of digitalization as well as demonstrating precise measures (technical and non-technical) to overcome existing barriers.
The results of the last three years of work from AG5 were also presented to the public by common events, during the AlpGov final event, during the EUSALP Annual Forum through promotional material at the stand at Lombardy Region and publicated inside the final declaration of Italian Presidency.
In addition, the importance of some AG5 initiatives, like the Smart Villages theme, were also stressed during the political session of the Annual Forum in Milan on 29 November 2019. In the presence of the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, the Lombardy Regional Minister for the Environment Raffaele Cattaneo, present during the event in the Aosta Valley on the Smart Villages, cited the Smart Villages as an important theme within the activities of the EUSALP strategy.
Looking to the future, digitalization through connectivity and digital services can be the answer to the critical challenges the Alpine regions, especially in the rural and mountain areas, have to face in terms of depopulation, brain drain, physical barriers, accessibility to welfare and economic growth. The focus of AG5 action is twofold. On the one hand, to draw up a comprehensive strategy for guiding and shaping the ongoing process of digitisation in the Alpine Region and, on the other hand, the accessibility to services which are provided by public authorities to people living within a certain area. This can be achieved by making the best use of new available technologies as well as developing take-up of e-services.
In a short sentence, Action Group 5 wants to build a common political vision based on the capacity of the Alps to be forerunners of digitalisation.
To achieve this goal, AG5 has developed a series of very concrete activities, which should be to the benefit of the alpine population and the alpine economy. These activities will be further disseminated during the next AlpGov 2 project, which will start on 2020.
Palazzo Lombardia, Milano