Cities as launch pads for digital transformation

22 June 2016

Cities and regions are entering a new era of transformation. A digital transformation embracing social, economic, urban, mobility, educational, technological and cultural changes.

But how can this transformation be activated, turning policy into delivery? This is explored in a report produced by the Strategic Policy Forum on Digital Entrepreneurship, based on PwC analysis, entitled Blueprint for cities and regions as launch pads for digital transformation.

So what does being a ‘digital launch pad’ involve? At its simplest, it entails the creation of the right environment to accelerate the digital transformation of businesses, organisations and public administrations in a place. However, it is ultimately about improving the ecosystem in which residents live and businesses succeed as well as the services and activities that governments, firms and organisations deliver.

Indeed, digital transformation impacts all types of places from a village in a poor region to capital cities. And it offers the opportunity to leverage their strengths, opening up new directions for city-based policymaking too, as well as the opportunity to fix some of the structural barriers hindering their growth such as lack of talent, lack of visibility and distance to work.

For instance, in Trento, policy makers have started to disclose and use mobility data to improve user experiences. Social partners in Luxembourg are supporting talented unemployed people to sign up to Fit4coding to become ICT specialists. And public officials of the city council of Lund are working with the Mobile Heights Centre to find opportunities for the city to act as a test-bed for local companies.

These examples, and many others set out in the Blueprint, illustrate some fantastic opportunities for European cities and regions to bring together local stakeholders and to mobilise them to accelerate the digital transformation process.

Figure: Key dimensions to activate the digital transformation process

Digital launch pad

So what is needed for digital lift off? We’ve identified four attributes to help cities and regions to create their launch pad.

  • Leadership and collaboration for smart governance of the local digital ecosystem. Visionary, proactive and engaged leaders are critical to introduce and drive new digital initiatives in a city or region. They have the ability to articulate a clear vision and to paint a picture of the future for their organisation but also for the whole place they lead. Urban leaders need an inclusive approach spanning the many stakeholders who can help make change happen – private sector, universities and civic movements.
  • Digital skills and entrepreneurs to accelerate the digital transformation process. Local businesses need the right talent with the relevant skillset to acquire and harness digital technologies. But digital talent is not only important for local companies. Local administrations, universities and research centres need to attract key talent, entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs with the ability to radically shape the city’s digital ecosystem.
  • Access to data and technologies for applied solutions to local challenges can act as a catalyst for change. In every organisation, digital solutions have the capacity to replace old and sub-optimal management styles by newer, more efficient ones. Digital solutions also offer unprecedented opportunities to improve the way we live and work.
  • Key infrastructures and investments for digital launch pads. Physical and digital infrastructures are required to optimise the use of resources and enable a higher quality of life in every territory. Innovative financial and business models are increasingly emerging to finance these sometimes costly, but indispensable, local technological infrastructures.

With these four attributes, the platform can be laid for citizens, local authorities, businesses and all other stakeholders across cities and regions to collaborate and create a digitally-enabled city of the future.


Laurent Probst |  Partner, Economic Development & Innovation leader
Email | +352 49 48 48 2199


Laurent Frideres |  Senior manager
Email | +352 49 48 48 4378



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