What does it take for a city to make the switch and become “smarter”? This is the question Oradea in northwest Romania is looking to answer with its plan to become the first Romanian smart city. With the Oradea Smart City strategy, the city is drafting a long-term plan based on a series of ICT-based solutions aimed to be put in place by 2025. Not only will these solutions help Oradea earn the title of Romania’s first smart city, it’ll also solve a number of public issues it currently faces. Below, we’ll take a look at Oradea’s digital strategy and how the city can learn from projects already underway in other places across the country.— Philippe Leonard
Long-term smart city plans
Oradea is looking at one main solution to solve challenges in the city: information and communications technology (ICT). For the city to reach “smart” status, it plans to connect all of its public institutions to a single platform. Last year, the city started mapping out just how it would set this plan in motion, investing €30,000 in a digital strategy that would create a platform where everything from the municipality’s decisions to taxes would be shared and accessible to state institutions. This type of open data platform would allow citizens to make tax payments and medical appointments online, instead of having to waste time at each individual institution. In addition, the plan would offer benefits like digital water meters; an electronic payment system for public transport; parking fees paid through SMS; and 60 Wi-Fi hotspots. Using a mix of European and private funding, Oradea has already switched out 5,000 of its 17,500 water meters for digital ones, and features GPS-enabled public transport, allowing citizens to track and plan their route depending on availability.
Oradea isn’t the only city in Romania coming up with a smart plan, however. The city to really watch is Alba Iulia, which launched a long-term development strategy back in 2002 and aims to be the first in Romania to feature 5G technology by 2018. With the help of telecommunications company Orange Romania, the city is serving as a pilot project for digital solutions. Orange Romania will provide Alba Iulia with an infrastructure platform that will connect objects with the help of 4G, LoRa, FTTH Fiber, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Orange will also work with local start-ups to help drive this digital development, installing sensors throughout the city to collect data and assist with smart lighting management and smart meters, in addition to developing smart applications as new technology rolls out along with the 5G network.
By looking ahead and learning from one another, cities around Romania are launching successful smart strategies that rely heavily on technology and view citizens more as customers than taxpayers, aiming to make their quality of life the best possible.
“When a citizen depends on the schedule of cashiers to pay a certain fee or to make a referral to an institution, the quality of his life is not very good. In these conditions, technology can help us not to be bound by time and space realising normal relations with an institution,” explains city manager Eduard Florea. “Since we pursue the efficiency of the administrative act, we must move forward and think in terms of efficiency for the citizen, whom should not be regarded as a taxpayer, but as our customer.”