In recent years, on a smaller scale, various government bodies, municipal councils and the Catalan Government itself have implemented pilot projects in the field of what are known as smart technologies, i.e. the vast array of possibilities where digital technology converges with the provision of services and with solutions to the problems, challenges and visions of the future for our urban environments and citizens.
However, the complex nature of twenty-first century territorial and residential structures requires an approach that transcends local perspectives in order to create a fabric of connectivity that ensures that all possible services reach urban, suburban, rural and metropolitan areas, and digital technology is precisely what makes this possible. And it is the duty of the authorities, and of the Government of Catalonia in particular, to simply make this possibility into a reality that is within everyone’s reach.
SmartCAT is a strategy designed as a response to the country’s needs for growth and social and economic transformation in an increasingly complex and interconnected environment, using the most powerful tools for transformation that we have: smart digital technology. This strategy has ambitious goals: these include the development of an appropriate regulatory framework for the new environment of the digital economy; the enhancement of an environment of industry, knowledge and collaboration between the private and public sectors fostering the roll-out of smart architecture in Catalonia, and the use of the business opportunities created by this rollout in Catalonia, while promoting a new data industry linked to emerging technological sectors such as Big Data and its related services.
It is now a year since this strategy was launched in Catalonia, after its approval by the Government on 28 October 2014, and we can now begin to discuss some of the first fruits of the projects that have been developed and implemented within it, which cover all the areas of the vast spectrum of possibilities of smart technologies. The Government of Catalonia has been involved in the creation and funding of one of the most important centres in southern Europe for analysis and forecasting with Big Data, the Big Data Centre of Excellence of Barcelona, which has begun to provide services to government bodies and businesses and provide support for a vast number of new projects in many sectors.
Catalonia is also beginning to gather momentum with the concept of the SmartFactory, or, in other words, policies to support digitized and interconnected industry—Industry 4.0—to promote the efficiency of production processes and business competitiveness. As a result, the Government of Catalonia, with the Eurecat technology centre and the I2CAT research centre, has designed the Industrial Ring 4.0—a new digital platform which will enable information, tools and resources for data processing and development in joint projects to be shared, accelerating the convergence between industry and ICT.
We are also working to roll out smart technologies in urban areas with the Catalonia SmartLab, an initiative undertaken in collaboration with the network of Catalan municipal councils to create a network of urban laboratories specialising in testing and validating smart solutions in real environments. Catalonia SmartLab is promoting the coordination and exchange of local experiences and agreements with private companies with a twofold objective: first, to promote the technology sector by offering access to infrastructure and equipment, and second, to enhance open innovation in cities through participation in pilot tests. The network, which is already creating spaces for testing technological business projects in areas such as security, mobile devices for young people, drones for fire control, remote assistance and highly efficient irrigation systems, now has 27 Catalan member municipalities.
In the field of mobility and participatory governance, we have launched initiatives such as the Cobertura Mòbil [Mobile Coverage] application, a collaborative project that is based on public participation in order to produce a map in real time of the coverage of all the mobile telephone networks in the country and thus identify the points in the region where coverage needs to be improved. This project already has more than 2,000 users—genuine SmartCitizens who have an instrument in their hands that can contribute to improving a basic service of the twenty-first century, connectivity.
We have also begun projects in other fields, such as in taxation (SmartTax), education (through the successful mSchools programme) and many others, which by definition are part of the spirit of the SmartCAT strategy: connection to digital technology in all areas of our society so that all areas of our society are connected, are aware of the possibilities of their potential and are able to contribute knowledge, wealth and welfare.
A lot of work has been done in a year, and we have a lot more left to imagine, create and offer our country and the rest of the world. Because Catalonia will either be smart or it will disappear.