Vodafone study: The EC's objective of having 100 smart cities by 2030 risks not being achieved

Urgent policy measures including adequate funding, the creation of smart city task forces and the availability of high-quality connectivity will be required to overcome barriers and ensure the European Commission achieves its ambitious mission of 100 carbon-neutral and smart cities by 2030, a new Vodafone report today reveals.

A comprehensive study across ten European countries commissioned by Vodafone and conducted by Opinion Matters – "Fit for the Future Cities: How technology can accelerate sustainable change" - surveyed 550 city experts with responsibility for technology and innovation to identify smart city adoption rates, opportunities and roadblocks.

"Fit for the Future Cities" found high levels of support for smart city adoption in Europe: 75% of the Romanians surveyed said their country has begun its smart city digital transformation journey, 60% considered that smart city solutions are something valued in their local authorities, while 7 in 10 European cities surveyed plan to invest in smart solutions in the future, with more than half (52%) planning to spend €2-€10 million during the next three years.

Although the 10 countries are at different phases of implementing their smart city plans, the experts highlighted an underlying “fragmentation of responsibilities” that meant overcoming obstacles often requires intervention at different geographic levels and the challenge of complex multi-organisation coordination between city councils, national governments, and intergovernmental bodies such as the European Union.

Experts considered the main barriers to implementing smart cities included: lack of funding, legislation, adequate infrastructure, privacy and safety concerns, complexity of procurement procedures, lack of strategy and digital skills.

The report identifies five stages of adoption of smart cities. In Romania they fall in the same proportion (35%) in the "New Explorer" and "Pathfinder" categories. "New Explorer" refers to cities that are beginning to align their political priorities with digital advances. Therefore, they are eager to start their journey and adopt smart solutions. "Pathfinders" have started to adopt solutions but require further funding and a clear strategy to pursue their future ambitions, as well as an investment in adequate digital infrastructure.

Among the Romanian cities taken into account for the analysis, none were considered "Front-Runner", a category that includes technologically mature cities, willing to invest in innovative solutions. According to DESI scores, Romania ranks last on the indicators related with digital public services and digital skills. These are both important components to support the adoption and promotion of smart city solutions.

You can view the full report here.

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