Smart City solutions implemented in the NW region of Romania
1. General aspects, description of the NW development region of Romania
The North-West Development Region of Romania includes the counties of Bihor, Bistrița-Năsăud, Cluj, Maramureș, Satu Mare and Sălaj, representing 14.3% of Romania's territory, thus ranking 4th nationally. The region is located on the border with Hungary in the western part, and with Ukraine in the northern part, the southern and eastern borders being inside the country.
According to the OECD classification, the North-West region is made up of 3 predominantly rural counties (Maramureș, Bistrița-Năsăud and Sălaj), a predominantly rural region close to the city (Satu Mare) and two intermediate regions close to the city (Cluj and Bihor counties).
In the North-West Region of Romania, according to the "Reilly-Converse"10 model, there is a city with complex services of regional importance - the Municipality of Cluj-Napoca and a city with complex services of sub-regional importance - the Municipality of Oradea. The municipality of Cluj-Napoca was designated as a growth pole in the North-West Region, thus benefiting mainly from investments from programs with community and national funding, and the municipalities of Oradea, Baia Mare and Satu Mare were designated as urban development poles.
According to the Local Human Development Index, in 2011, Cluj county is the only one in the North West Region to be included in the higher development category, being the 4th in the national top. This is followed by the county of Maramureș which is in the category of developed counties, while the counties of Bistrita-Năsăud, Satu Mare and Bihor are medium to high developed counties. Sălaj County is in the last place between the counties of the region with an average development. No county of the region is included in the category middle-lower development. In each county in the region, the majority of the population - between 30% and 53% - lives in localities with medium to high development. The exception is Cluj County, where the majority of the population lives in localities with comprehensive development; however, here the percentage of the population living in the areas with medium to low development is higher than the one in medium development localities. In the rest of the counties, between 9% and 18% of the inhabitants are in localities with comprehensive development.
2. Access to the Internet
In 2018, 79.8% of households in Romania have access to the Internet at home, compared to 2011, when only 43.3% had access. Expressed interest in connecting on the Internet is, however, influenced by the possibilities offered territorially by the providers of this service and the financial availability that each household has. Their transposition in the decision to a purchasing a home computer or connecting to the Internet can explain the large gaps encountered between urban and rural environments.
In 2018, the North-West Region is in 3rd place in terms of the proportion of households equipped with computer at home (72%), after Bucharest-Ilfov and West. North-West was growing compared to 2011, in what regarding this indicator, when 45% of households were equipped with a computer. 61% of the citizens of the North-West region uses the Internet daily, 12% of people between the ages of 16 and 74 years have interacted with public authorities via the Internet.
The North-West region is in third place after Bucharest-Ilfov and West, in 2018, in terms of internet connection of households (74%), increasing compared to 2011. Share of elderly people of 16-74 year olds who used the internet at least once in 2018 places the North-West region on 3rd place, with 83.9%.
3. Smart city initiatives
According to the studies carried out by the "Regional Strategy for Sustainable Urban Mobility and Smart Cities of the Northwest Region 2021-2027", from the point of view of the implementation stage of the concept of Smart City at Regional level shows that 70.6% of public administrations are in the early stages, 11.8% want to implement the concept in the next funding period, 8.8% want implementation of pilot projects and 2.9% consider it not a priority for the development of the city/municipality.
Only the County of Cluj and the municipalities of Cluj-Napoca and Oradea have developed strategies or plans for adoption of the "smart city" concept. Currently, the municipality of Cluj Napoca is the only city that appears in specific European "smart city" rankings and networks. This aspect is largely due to a constant effort to develop, test and sometimes scale "smart city" solutions supported by the environment entrepreneurial, educational and public administration.
Examples of initiatives of the local public administration of the municipality of Cluj Napoca for the implementation of the smart city strategy:
- More than 300 online services and procedures available to citizens, to reduce the effort and time spent on the road or waiting, as well as the risk in a pandemic context. In addition to introducing new procedures and systems, such as the Blue Ticket, in the short term, the City Hall aims to issue online all the notices and authorizations issued by the institution. Also was created and implemented the first virtual civil servant "Antonia"
- In the summer of 2020, Cluj-Napoca City Hall created, with the help of European funds, the first smart street in Romania that has all the facilities of a "green" space, but which is adapted to current urban technologies. The street now has: trees planted with a sensor irrigation system, four electric car charging points and 15 parking spaces, 30 places for charging bicycles and electric scooters, free Wi-Fi and USB sockets for charging mobile phones, public lighting intelginet and many other facilities that Cluj residents can enjoy.
- a WiFi Internet system has been placed in the center of the city, those who are in the area have 50 hotspots at their disposal, with which they can connect to the Internet for free, including the possibility of detecting parking spaces in real time available in zone I of the city.
- a mobile application (Step-Hear) was created to support visually impaired people.The app is based on proximity sensors and Bluetooth technology. They generate information in audio format, useful for visually impaired people, so that they can more easily explore the space around them - in our case, the two town hall offices. Step-Hear installs on your mobile phone and is available on Google Play and the App Store. People with visual impairments thus have, directly on their mobile phone, a source of reliable information for the best possible orientation
Overall, until now, 63 smart city projects have been implemented in the municipality of Cluj Napoca as follows; smart mobility category – 23, followed by smart living – 13, smart governance – 12, smart environment – 8, smart economy – 5, smart people – 2
Examples of initiatives of the local public administration of the municipality of Oradea for the implementation of the smart city strategy:
- Digital.oradea.ro platform which allows online communication between the city and the public administration. More than 90 services that the public administration offer in conventional format are also available on the platform. It allows to manage any documentation or requests citizens may have for administration.
- public transportation is equipped with electronic devices that allow payment by card, it is also possible to pay by SMS from the mobile phone.
- online application for paying for parking
- charging stations for electric cars provided by the city hall
- half of the bus fleet is made up of hybrid or electric buses
- free wifi and internet access points in 50 public spaces in the city
- Oradea City App and Oradea City Report - mobile apps for the promotion of local tourism and for the transmission of various notifications and incidents to Oradea City Hall and local public service operators (Oradea Water Company, Oradea Local Transport, Oradea Heating, Oradea Local Police, Ecological Service etc.).
Oradea is considered the second most "intelligent city" (smart city) in Romania, thanks to 20 projects, in the Top 10 cities in Romania, depending on the number of smart city projects planned, being implemented or delivered, according to the "Smart City Radiography Romania" report, made by the integrator of intelligent solutions Vegacomp Consulting.