Regional Development: Innovation and Digitalisation – the Future Way for City as well as for Rural Area

On October 24, 2019, IKDP organised the second conference on the topic of regional development, named “Regional Development: Innovation and Digitalisation – the Future Way for City as well as for Rural Area”. It took place in Olomouc (Olmütz) in the premises of Pevnost poznání – an interactive centre of learning and cognition owned and run by University of Palacký in Olomouc. The conference was simultaneously interpreted from/to Czech and English and moderated by Mr Stanislav Jurík often speaking on Czech Radio.

The keynote of the conference was the thought that not only the physical highways are necessary in today’s world to connect people and enable them to work and live, but was there good high-speed internet connection in the regions, many people working from home nowadays could stay in or move to the regions and would not have to move to bigger cities. Such people include mostly but not only IT specialists who are well paid and mostly need only a computer and internet connection to be able to work, maybe they might need to travel to the city to visit clients in their offices but e.g. once a week only.

If people were more free to choose where to live and would not have to move to cities for employment, they would welcome the possibility to buy a house with a garden in a town or a village – closer to nature and for less money than an apartment in a city (today’s prices of real estate in Prague and Brno are crazy). Municipalities would then gain more money from the taxes of new residents and could support municipal projects, open new kindergardens, etc. Services in such municipalities could come alive too – e.g. a supermarket or a restaurant could then be sure to have clients there. And social life including multiple associations, societies and other clubs would blossom too – and where there is active social life, the municipality flourishes together with the whole society.

The opening remarks were given by Mr Marek Výborný, member of the Chamber of Deputies of the Czech Parliament and the chairman of KDU-ČSL, under the auspices of his the conference was held. In the panel, the word was given firstly to Mrs Milena Jabůrková, vice-president of Confederation of Industry of the Czech Republic. She focuses mainly on digital single market, e-government, cyber security, but also on human resources, technological development and as a member of IBM Central Region’s management on relations with public administration. In that way she clarified that the state of internet connection in the Czech Republic in general is quite good, but suggested that the audience as well as any other Czechs make use of the Confederation of Industry’s regional offices which exist to help the cooperation between public administration (ministries) and private sector (businesses). She was followed by Mr Pavel Hrabě, architect of Digital Czechia project and an employee of the Ministry of Interior, who brought up supportive ideas like that no-one can expect or even require from any mayor of any smaller town or village that he/she would him-/herself set up a digital strategy for the town or village – such a mayor shall be able to use a pattern or an example/model from a bigger city or even from a region. The third speaker was Mr Dimitar Lilkov, the research officer for Digital Economy Affairs, Energy and Environment at Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies. Dimitar introduced the European perspective; he inter alia mentioned that people often ask him why there is no European Google, European Facebook etc. yet – his answer to it is that the European Union is still very fragmented and disunited, that is why. The last speaker of the first panel was Mr Petr Hladík, first deputy mayor of the City of Brno and vice-chairman of KDU-ČSL. Petr introduced the state of innovation in Brno but spoke of the Czech Republic in general too, saying that there are 5 agglomerations in the CZ and if we want that e.g. graduates after studies return to the regions they come from, we need the regions to be competitive to the agglomerations which can be achieved also by the fact that it would not matter where people work from, pointing out that nowadays people count a lot the value of their time spent on the way to/from work realising that this much time they could (and would prefer to) devote to their family.

The second panel was opened by the presentation of Mr Bohuslav Niemiec, deputy mayor for Investment and Smart City of Havířov and vice-chairman of KDU-ČSL. Bohuslav gave a comparison of Havířov and Brno, showing different state of development of innovation: Petr had said that in Brno, they had started supporting start-ups 18 years ago – in Havířov, they still were mining in those times; this year however, they have managed to start projects like wi-fi connection on the buses of public transport, bike-sharing and electronic parking monitoring all over Havířov. Bohuslav was followed by Mr Miloslav Oliva, chairman of Regional Network of Local Action Groups of Central-Bohemian Region and entrusted manager of “Smart Rural Area” Working Group. Miloslav pointed out that what many people do not reckon is that the most of innovation is used in agriculture, saying that the Local Action Groups are a kind of innovation broker – they coordinate and determine the contents of innovation, they reallocate the European subsidies; and the Smart Rural Area is not a result but the process of development. The third speaker of the second panel was Mr Petr Chládek, CEO of South-Moravian Innovation Centre which is one of the oldest innovation centre in the Czech Republic and which helps people develop businesses that can change the world to a better place (they try to make people think in a global context so that the innovations they bring up lead to global solutions, offer solutions to global problems like cyber security, climate change, etc.); it also cooperates with small towns and villages that seem to have a good employment rate but the wages are very low there. The panel was closed up by Mr Emil Vařeka, founder and CEO of technological and consulting company and

The whole conference was summed up by Mr Petr Hladík. The conference was organised by IKDP in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Wilfried Martens Centre for European Studies.

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