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Transforming local authority organisation

Pillar 4

Consolidate digital technology in the staff’s long term practices


The digital sector is particularly dynamic and changing rapidly in technology and uses. It must go hand in hand with the evolution in local government administration’s missions.

Once the movement towards local authority digitalisation has been launched and consolidated, it can be monitored and integrated into the local procedures more broadly, through the:

  • design of a local digital strategic plan that capitalises on the first pilot actions;
  • introduction of a process for continuous skills boosting of the municipal staff.

Design a local digital plan

Once several pilot projects have been tested and evaluated, it becomes possible to derive lessons from them and prepare the design of a local digital plan.
According to feedback from experiences, this approach is more a result of than a preparation for the introduction of digital technology on a territory. It aims to spread the pilot projects on the scale of the territory following the same methodological stages as for a sector project.

It may be useful to have recourse to smart city project management support: service providers, specialists in the domain (consulting firms) can contribute to clearly defining the strategic project, establishing a more in-depth diagnosis of the digital maturity of territory and local authority, to master the technical and regulatory environment, discover reserves of opportunities and optimise local public action thanks to digital tools.

Smart city technical assistance
Inspired by Assou, 2017

Technical support can take several complementary forms to contribute an outsider’s view:

  • support to local decision-makers to properly understand the opportunities inherent to the digital transition;
  • legal support for managing the information and data produced by the territory;
  • advice for managing and organising the municipality faced with the digital challenge;
  • organisation of training sessions dedicated to staff and managers on the tools tested within the local authority;
  • drafting of proposals for data management modes.

Collaborative design of a municipal digital strategy
Paris, France

A digital strategy to create a participatory framework around the smart city.

In 2015 the city of Paris, along with a committee of public and private partners, implemented a digital strategy called Paris intelligente et durable, perspectives 2020 et au-delà (Smart, sustainable Paris, outlook for 2020 and beyond). The aim is to enrich and evolve gradually with contributions from the different stakeholders.

Digital systems, co-construction workshops, online groups of users, experts and public officers are set up to encourage citizen participation:

  • Idée Paris (Paris Idea) is a forum for contact between project leaders and partners;
  • Je m’engage pour Paris lists the missions in the public interest according to geographic, thematic and temporal criteria and facilitates meetings between volunteers and associations and collectives;
  • The interactive map Carticipe allows people to propose and vote for projects on a map of the city available online.

The creation of an independent structure dedicated to the smart city makes it possible to drive the approach in a cross-sectional manner. Composed of half a dozen staff and reporting to the “Smart and sustainable city” mission’s general secretariat, it enables project monitoring and driving, management of responses to national and European calls for projects, and organisation of new ways of working with the partners.

This cross-wise structure brings together all the “innovation” contacts of the divisions, or six persons, each in charge of a theme (data, participation, mobility, architecture, energy, digital solutions and planting).

Lessons learnt

  • Digital strategy management was embodied in the creation of a dedicated service within the municipality.
  • The strategy was fuelled by the results of several coordination mechanisms with the inhabitants using digital tools.
Key questions

Building a local digital strategy

  • Is the territory sufficiently mature: is there an adequate critical mass of start-ups; is the ecosystem already properly structured; is the level of population computer ownership and connectivity high enough?
  • Are digital skills present: are there bodies for development training; coaches or mentors capable of providing support to entrepreneurs; willingness on the part of public employees to make their practices evolve?
  • Are their sufficient financial means: is there a manifest interest on the part of investors; the possibility of obtaining and distributing subsides via calls for projects?
  • Is the regulatory framework stable: what is the regulatory framework for telephone service providers; the legislation on open data; what leeway do local authorities have for defining their rules?
  • Is there a clear vision of digital technology on the territory: is there a proper understanding of the concrete opportunities by sector; the risks, the control measures to be put in place?
  • Are the territory’s problem issues amenable to digital solutions: have the urban problems been clearly identified and listed; is there any data on these problems which can be shared and submitted to the innovators to propose solutions?

Offer public servants continuous training in these new skills

The local officers must be both capable and convinced of the potential of ICT to improve their working conditions and methods. The training of employees in the use of digital tools is a pre-requisite that can be facilitated today via online tools, such as MOOCs, awareness-raising games and forums for exchanging practices. Raising the awareness of the elected representatives themselves can make a useful contribution to this general mobilisation, making them able, on the one hand, to collectively define the digital strategy and, on the other, to make sure, each in their own domain of responsibility, that it is deployed appropriately by the local government teams.

The use of digital technology for training, or e-learning, can apply to the ICT sector itself but more broadly to all domains of urban and local action. This may also be an indirect way of promoting awareness of digital technology: online training on drawing up the land registry map, crisis management or tourist strategies, can serve to highlight the potential of digital technology, to familiarise project leaders with digital tools.

Local authorities will do well to take advantage of the availability of open, free tools and software, as well as forums and online training. The dematerialisation of exchanges facilitates learning methods for the new digital tools. All these tools and digital contents allow local authorities to identify what already exists, what can be done, and the methods used by other cities to implement their digital projects. Internally and externally, online training can accelerate the boosting of local digital skills remotely and inexpensively.

Peer learning: intercity dialogue

Still rare are those local authorities who undertake such a process alone, and it is often with incentives or support from the State, donors or foundations that the initiatives emerge. The appeal of “open government” or “open data” can stimulate exchanges between peers and offer opportunities that incite local authorities to engage in such a process.

Lastly, digital technology is also a tool that allows exchanges of experience and the sharing of best practices. The constitution of networks of cities for the appropriation of digital technology, their challenges and conditions, can benefit from ICT to boost these exchanges. The novelty of digital technology makes the sector particularly dynamic and at the same time unstable: experience feedback is therefore still relatively fresh. Peer exchanges are the most reliable source and the most responsive means at the present time for learning what is being done, what works or doesn’t work and what can be done simply in a very concrete manner.


TechTown, a European network on the issue of job creation
Clermont-Ferrand, France

Intermediate cities network to create jobs thanks to digital technology.

The European URBACT programme allows eleven cities in proximity to major “hubs” to learn on the general theme of job creation. The work takes place on two scales.

  • transnational meetings and activities on specific themes: how to define the digital ecosystem, how to attract and retain talent, how to support start-ups, how to fund connected spaces and premises, how to digitise the traditional industries;
  • local activities in each city from a local URBACT support group combining all the stakeholders around the local authority. Each group has the aim of drawing up a local digital agenda on the selected theme.

To take the example of a city in the programme, Clermont-Ferrand in France, as requested by the local authority, the network made it possible to work on supporting the sound and light sector with the stakeholders:

  • execution of a sector inventory from February to June 2017;
  • co-definition of a shared vision for the future of the sector (participatory workshop on 27 June 2017);
  • identification of actions to be co-managed by stakeholders (June 2017 to May 2018).

Lessons learnt

  • Peer dialogue (city to city) is a powerful vehicle for learning.
  • The cities forming a network must make sure they all want to learn from each other and must find donors to fund their local and transnational activities.

Decentralized cooperation and participatory planning
Guediawaye, Senegal

Taking advantage of the experience of a city in the North to introduce digital services and spaces for citizen dialogue in a municipality in the South.

Guediawaye is one of four municipalities that compose the agglomeration of Dakar. The different municipal teams launched participatory planning experiments, in particular around projects to encourage the use of digital technology (municipal websites, e-learning, micro-credits, etc.). To provide consistency in the overall development of digital technology in the city, a decentralized cooperation project emerged in 2008 involving the municipality, the agglomeration community of Castres-Mazamet and the University of Toulouse (France).

The French municipality placed its experience and know-how at the service of Guediawaye for the development of a digital platform recognised as one of the major vectors of local development (economic, teaching and research).

Between 2007 and 2010, a first phase enabled the introduction of a pilot GIS GIS Geographic information system: system designed to gather, store, process, analyse, manage and display all types of spatial and geographic data for more efficient management of municipal services and the circulation of mapping for the use of decision-makers and civil society. A collaborative portal was also developed to exchange and pool initiatives of the different categories of stakeholders, make available up-to-date information matching citizens’ needs, and teach them to use the tools (use perceived as unavoidable).

Two other phases were implemented over the 2010-2015 period: one for institutional capacity-building and appropriation of the tools by local stakeholders, the other, funded by AFD, for examining the possibilities of regional spin-offs.

Lessons learnt

The decentralized cooperation mechanisms enabled the development of peer-to-peer learning and capacity-building of stakeholders by adapting a French solution to the needs of a Senegalese city..


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