With its workplan of 2016, AG5 of EUSALP identified the Smart-villages-approach as a strategic priority. Therefore, AG5 initiated an Alpine Space Program project called SMARTVillages, which was carried out from 2018 to 2021. The final conference took place on 29th April 2021. With the SmartVillages project, the Smart-villages-approach was adapted to the Alpine context. A common understanding and methodology were elaborated. The concept was tested in 11 pilot areas and transferable tools were developed by project partners to facilitate its uptake by Alpine communities. All results are compiled in a compendium in all Alpine languages.
How can the Alps become smarter?
The Smart Villages concept can help alpine villages to identify the current and future needs of local communities by involving local stakeholders. Digital and social technologies as well as better knowledge transfer are used to improve the economic, social and environmental living conditions and increase the quality of life of the population.
Participatory processes ensure that the strategies and/or tools developed are adapted to the needs of the users, while guaranteeing the acceptance of the population for the use of new "smart" solutions. In this sense, Smart Villages are not limited to the use of new technologies but are intimately linked to social innovation and local development, shaped by members of the same community.
Some of the examples developed during the SMARTVillages project were presented during the final conference. For instance, in the test area of Löffingen (Germany), a taxi service was developed for people without a private car and who have special appointments. In Pitztal (Tyrol, Austria), the “Ummadum” car-sharing app was developed thanks to the project; it facilitates daily mobility and also gives discounts in local shops to car-poolers. In the region of Luzern West (Switzerland), 9km of fiber-optic cable was deployed thanks to social innovation and capacity building activities.
Spreading Smart Villages across the Alps
During the final conference of the SMARTVillages project, the Smart Villages Charter was launched. This Charter intends to sustain the achievements of the project in the long term by creating the SMART ALPS network gathering smart regions and villages of the Alps. To disseminate the tools developed during the project, the Smart Villages Digital exchange platform will also remain active beyond the end of the project. The platform for example also features the smartness evaluation tool, available for local stakeholders and villages to define their assets and room for improvement in their area.
For the period 2020 – 2022, EUSALP has identified the Smart-villages-approach as one of its five Strategic Priority Policy Areas. The ambition is to transform as many as possible mountain villages and regions into Smart villages and Smart regions. To achieve this goal, a leaflet presenting the Smart villages approach has been elaborated. Furthermore, a survey was carried out in existing Smart villages initiatives in the alpine area and existing financial support schemes for the Smart villages approach have been identified. During the DigitalAlps online conference, on 27/28 May 2021, the Network of Alpine Smart villages and regions SMART ALPS will be launched. The Network intends to foster the exchange of information and experiences amongst Alpine regions and villages that have also engaged their transition towards smartness. For more information, please consult the SMART ALPS presentation document.