Service deliveryDigital Customer ServiceA German approach to digital transformation

A German approach to digital transformation

Find out how the German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is delivering an ambitious digital transformation strategy that includes 70 very different digital projects

The southwest German state of Baden-Wuerttemberg – an area that includes the city of Stuttgart as well as the rural Black Forest – is faced with many of the same issues that are commonplace here in the UK. Tightening budgets, growing pressures on services, changing consumer behaviours…it’s a familiar picture.

Prompted by the need to take action, the state decided to turn to digital, launching a competition to find a series of city and district digital initiatives that would benefit from a share of 800,000 euros. As a result, four cities and a network of districts are being turned into digital future communes, while 50 other municipalities will be supported on their journey into the digital age.

Digital transformation presents communities with completely new challenges: they can offer people new services and provide business and science with an attractive and networked environment,” said Baden-Wuerttemberg’s Minister of the Interior, Digitalisation and Migration, Thomas Strobl. “Digital platforms are already changing the mobility, housing market or retail trade in local communities. A digital city is much more than a digital administration or fast internet. That’s why we also launched the competition ‘Digitale Zukunftskommune @ bw’ for the first time. And cities and towns have come up with convincing and concrete proposals to improve the quality of life of local people through new, connected services such as telecare or digital education.”

Meeting demand

Strobl points to recent research as clear evidence that digital transformation is both needed and demanded by citizens. The German Association of Towns and Municipalities found that only 10 per cent of municipalities currently rate their digitisation status as “good”.

“We don’t want to lose any time and, in close cooperation with the local state associations, make our contribution to bringing digitisation to the surface at a rapid pace,” Strobl continued. “To achieve this, it’s vitally important that all levels and types of government are included in digital work. It’s good and important that in the 74 applicants, the whole range of the municipal family was in the race – from the small community with almost 2,500 inhabitants, to cities, counties and even regional associations.

“The state government relies on the creative power of the local communities to increase the acceptance of the citizens for one of the biggest social changes of our time. This is an essential key to success.”

Digital futures

Baden-Wuerttemberg’s digital competition has resulted in a number of programmes and ideas being put into practice. The five key projects are:

Karlsruhe will initially set up a citizen app in partnership with six companies and institutions, so that the citizens of Karlsruhe, will receive all relevant information about urban life. This ranges from a pharmacy and petrol station finder to real-time information on traffic conditions and parking facilities, as well as cultural and leisure tips.

Ludwigsburg is looking to build on the launch of a new customer service robot called L2B2 in its City Hall.

The robot welcomes visitors to the Bürgerbüro (in German or English), prompting the citizen to select their request via a touch display. Then the robot accompanies them over the corridors and leads them to the appropriate office. This simplifies the administrative procedures for the citizens and frees up employees to be more productive.

Now, the city will now set up a digital citizen account – and build it as an interface to all the city’s services and information. Users will get answers to the question of which documents they need to complete various everyday procedures, where the next parking space will be available or how the pollen count will develop.

The city of Heidelberg will be launching a digital citizen portal with 45 project partners, which not only collects traffic data, but also, for example, routes gritters to the streets and bridges threatening to freeze in winter. This ensures resources are allocated most efficiently.

Ulm intends to digitally combine and network the residential district Alter Eselsberg, which has grown since the 1960s, with the newly developing “Am Weinberg” area. Doctors, pharmacists, retailers or public transport companies can then offer new services – sharing resources when available. It is also planned to allow older people, for example, to swap babysitting for shopping services, developing new models of neighbourhood help via a digital platform. All this should be developed and implemented along the specific needs of the people from the neighbourhood.

Association of rural districts
The group of districts made up of Karlsruhe, Biberach, Böblingen, Konstanz and Tuttlingen each have their own project to help them into the digital age – e-filing in Biberach, digital car registration in Konstanz, telemedicine in Tuttlingen, interactive and digital learning tables at schools in Karlsruhe or intelligent mobility in Böblingen – and the transfer of knowledge and thus the transferability to other districts and municipalities.

Alexis von Komorowski, Chief Executive of the district council commented: “We are particularly pleased that the project network of the districts of Biberach, Böblingen, Karlsruhe, Constance and Tuttlingen is among the winners. All districts in Baden-Württemberg can benefit from the digitisation projects of the five districts involved, which cover the areas of education, mobility, e-government and health care. A particularly important part of digitisation from the point of view of districts is that they can continue to ensure services of general interest are guaranteed in the area, for example through efficiency enhancements, telemedicine or through digitally networked mobility.”

Shared knowledge

The competition doesn’t end there. Another 50 municipalities will be supported over the next ten months, each with up to 45,000 euros, to develop a digitisation strategy. At least four municipalities will be selected from the best ideas, who will then be able to implement them with up to 100,000 euros each state funding.

All municipalities are to be assisted – theoretically and technically – by the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering. The aim is to transfer the best practices from the model communes to as many other municipalities in Baden-Württemberg as possible.

Wilhelm Bauer, Technology Commissioner of the State Government / Head of Fraunhofer IAO said: “In societal change processes, about two percent of a group is always the innovator, courageously breaking new ground and inspiring others. With more than 50 winning winners from 1,101 communities and 35 counties, we’re sure we’ve got the right trailblazers for digitisation in the country right from the start. ”

Preserving future viability

Interestingly, a key target of the competition is to develop digital functions and tools that help to preserve the future viability of rural municipalities. As a result, three rural communities have been selected in different regions, where the offer of local retailers is to be bundled and made available online with the help of an app.

Through digital approaches such as neighbourhood apps and online exchanges, new ways are being developed to strengthen neighbourly structures through digital and real networking and the passing on of information in a low-threshold way. In addition to innovative communication and organisational solutions, technical aids such as lighting control or automatic door openers can help fulfil the desire of many older people to stay in their familiar surroundings as long and self-determined as possible.

In addition, as part of Baden-Wuerttemberg’s digital strategy, a virtual Smart Home and Living competence centre is to be set up at a cost of one million euros. The competence centre, which is unique in Germany, is intended to become a (virtual) focal point for the Smart Home and Living (SHL) competencies. The hope is that it will bring together the forces in the region to jointly initiate and implement targeted, effective measures. It will cover the topics of information, awareness raising, qualification and coordination of regional activities. Target groups include end-users, housing associations, care institutions, housing cooperatives, intermediaries and research institutions. This project is expected to start in autumn 2018.

Clear ambition

Digital @ bw is the first cross-departmental digitisation strategy to be presented in Germany and created in teamwork by all ministries. It’s without doubt an ambitious strategy that will look to deliver more than 70 very concrete projects that address multiple different problems and ensure future project viability.

We for one will be keeping a keen eye on projects to see how they develop – watch this space for more information.

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