About VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar"

SMART CITIES - ARE WE READY TO CREATE AND MANAGE THEM?



Corresponding Member of BAS ATANAS KOVACHEV, D Arch, Dean of the Faculty of Architectureof Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar" and Director of The Institute For Integrated Management of Municipalities

 

 At the beginning of the new millennium, especially in the second decade of the 21st century, there is a tendency to increase the number, size and role of cities worldwide. This leads to both an increase in the share of urban population and to a change in the functions of cities and the spreading of urban lifestyle. Today, municipalities and cities face a number of challenges. Globalization and the rapid development of new technologies presuppose many changes, both in economic development and the organization of public life. The time and dynamics of the changes designate human capital as a key resource in the management of modern development processes. Major problems of the municipalities today are depopulation of some municipalities and overcrowding of others. These trends are also typical for Bulgaria.

 

The growing role of cities in the modern development of society necessitates the creation and management of "the smart city". This puts municipalities in a situation where they have to deal simultaneously with economic development, urbanization and the creation of utilities, reduction of poverty, inequality in society and environmental protection.

 

Construction and operation of smart cities creates opportunities for implementing effective solutions for optimal utilization and energy saving, reduced consumption of non-renewable resources, control over environmental waste, sustainable development, thereby improving quality of life.

The theme of smart cities is the basis for various initiatives, programmes and projects, such as the European Innovation Partnership “Smart Cities and Communities”, the European network EUROCITIES, the European Urban Knowledge Network - EUKN, JPI Urban Europe, Urban  Agenda, Pact of Amsterdam, 2016, the European Forum for Architectural Policies (EFAP) and others. Currently, the world works for smart management, smart economy, smart mobility, technological environment, smart people ... mobile environment.

 

 

Smart management perceives the city as a framework for a comprehensive urban management, including services and interactions that connect and integrate public, private, national and European public organizations. So the city can function effectively as a single organism. Main tool for this are information and communication technologies (ICT) - infrastructure, hardware and software.

 

Smart economy includes e-business and e-commerce, smart strategies to increase productivity, innovative products, services and business models. It creates a favourable environment for the development of intelligent clusters and entrepreneurial ecosystems and involves local and global interconnectedness of physical and virtual flows of goods, services and knowledge.

 

Smart mobility covers integrated transport and logistics systems. These are sustainable, safe and interconnected transport systems, which may include trams, buses, trains, underground, bicycles and pedestrians in situations with one or more modes of transport. The information provided can be accessed in real-time to reduce costs, harmful emissions / CO2 /, to save travel time, improve services and provide user feedback.

 

The technological environment includes renewable energy, energy networks, pollution control, renovation and creation of sustainable buildings, measurement of efficiency, reuse and replacement of resources. This includes services such as street lighting, waste management, drainage systems and water resource systems to reduce pollution and improve water quality and others.

 

Smart people are an integral part of the philosophy of the smart city. Here, criteria of "smartness" are electronic and information-communication skills, education and training, flexible management models and improvement of the capacity of human resources as well as creating an environment for the development of creativity and promotion of innovations.

 

Full life in the context of smart cities is an active lifestyle, behaviour and consumption. It includes a healthy and safe environment and housing ensuring a high quality of life.

 

What is the future of the Bulgarian cities in the context of global challenges such as uncontrolled migration and asymmetry of regional development?

One possible solution is the use of the resources of the knowledge of the municipalities. Knowledge and trained staff are indispensable. In recent years, the need for specialized education and further training of staff related to the management of the municipalities in the country has been more clearly outlined.          

This applies to both staff at medium level - specialists in regional and municipal administrations and senior management - mayors, deputy mayors, directors of departments, heads of departments, chief architects. The representatives of the political governance of municipalities - municipal councilors - should also have knowledge and skills that should be at the level of the high responsibilities of the decisions they make. All this requires specialized training provided by qualified experts and university lecturers.

Therefore at the end of last year, one well-established educational and scientific institution with 25 years of history such as Varna Free University "Chernorizets Hrabar" founded the Institute for Integrated Management of Municipalities. Its mission is to promote sustainable and smart development of the municipalities as it trains and prepares staff for their management; develop research, entrepreneurship and innovation in accordance with the concept of smart cities.

The institute offers training in specialized modules, with particular emphasis on tools for municipal government, the municipality as a single ecosystem, planning, creation and management of sustainable urban environment, preservation of cultural heritage, formation of municipal budgets, tax and housing policy and smart specialization strategies.

 

Lecturers from Varna Free University, Bulgarian and foreign scholars and practitioners participate in the research, consultancy and training activities of the Institute.

The first successful forum in the work of the new Institute for integrated management of municipalities has been held. Further training of mayors and municipal representatives from South Central region "Tools for Municipal Management" took place from 8 to 10 December in Pamporovo resort. It was attended by 75 representatives of 15 municipalities from Smolyan, Plovdiv, Sofia and Stara Zagora regions.

The programme of the forum included three panels on current local issues related to the challenges facing the integrated municipal management, its key components and new support tools.

Lecturers at the training were representatives of the three faculties of Varna Free University and authoritative experts. During the training, in a video address to the participants, Prof. George Vredeveld, director of the Economic Centre for Education and Research at the University of Cincinnati, commented upon the role of applied economics in understanding the local environment, on the assessment of the competitive advantages and the stimulation of the economic growth in the region

The final discussion summarized the work of the forum, making analysis and evaluating the existing practices. It also outlined the importance of the sustainability of projects to create economic growth, sustainable job creation, stimulating new entrepreneurial initiatives and the linkage of project activities with the plan for integrated urban development and the strategy for smart specialization.

The survey among the participants showed high appreciation and confirmed the necessity and usefulness of this kind of training. It showed that the initiative of VFU "Chernorizets Hrabar" and the new Institute for Integrated Management of Municipalities is timely, necessary and an useful form of meeting and discussion between researchers and the participants in the municipal government at the various levels.

The start was given. Other meetings, trainings and exchange of ideas also held in other regions of Bulgaria in order to answer the question of how to face the challenges of development and management of smart cities.


by ВСУ Черноризец Храбър

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