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Stimulate local economic development

Step 4

Start with pilot actions to support the digitalization of the local economy


Local authorities, with the help of start-ups, can launch pilot actions to test new digital public-oriented services.

The digital sector can contribute to local economic development in two ways that are not mutually exclusive:

  • by developing innovative merchant services for the population, provided by start-ups responding to demand on an unexplored market;
  • by developing digital solutions that contribute to enhanced performance of the traditional private sector which then positions itself as a client and buyer of solutions.

The promotion of these innovations is achieved through a strategy of supporting the development of a competitive market favourable to local entrepreneurship and urban development. Local authorities in developing cities often have limited capacities to provide basic services or for example to map informal neighbourhoods. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, may find opportunities there, develop more efficient intervention methods, or even reveal a latent demand on the part of the population. The development of these services is not necessarily in competition with public action.

For these new services to be complementary or even add value for inclusive and sustainable development, the local authority must position itself as a catalyst and regulator of the initiatives. For example, it could submit urban problems to these small enterprises, leaving them free to innovate, make use of their skills to develop digital solutions for administrative problems, support informal stakeholders in structuring their commercial digital offers, and encourage the creation of economic partnerships between traditional private stakeholders and start-ups around the search for innovation…

The emergence and development of a dynamic local ecosystem are subject to certain conditions:

Practical exercise

Identify quick, easy pilot actions to stimulate digital innovation in local economic development

List pilot actions that are simple and fast to meet the needs of companies

In the traditional economic sector, what are the priorities for accelerating the use made of digital technology?

  • The generation, sharing and opening of data to offer the possibility of developing new, related services?
  • Communication strategies and online marketing to increase appeal?
  • The building of interfaces and platforms to facilitate exchanges and relations with customers/users?
  • Building partnerships or support for innovation via innovative third party enterprises?

For start-ups, what are their priority needs in terms of:

  • equipment;
  • data;
  • coaching;
  • funding.

Define the experimental scope of the actions

  • What type of stakeholders do we wish to provide with initial support?
  • On which key urban development issues are we awaiting the introduction of new digital services?
  • What are the possibilities for creating niche markets, derogations, spaces to facilitate experimentation with new business models?
Suggestion box

Support firms in the digital sphere

  • Define critical urban problems to submit and share with innovative firms
  • Make available from time to time shared, equipped and connected premises
  • Grant aids and facilitate procedures for company creation in the digital sphere
  • Allocate subsidies to digital training programmes
  • Organise competitions and prizes for digital innovation, accredit promising start-ups
  • Facilitate exchanges between traditional private sector and start-ups via trade fairs and forums
  • Grant targeted aids for innovation with a social and environmental vocation and local impact
  • Put in place partnerships with universities for data processing
  • Accompany informal service operators to develop digital services

CIPMEN: The incubator for start-ups
Niamey, Niger

A set of personalised services to support start-ups backed by the city of Niamey.

The SME incubator in Niger (CIPMEN) is part of the Afric’Innov programme, partially supported by AFD. It was set up in 2013 to improve the chances of growth and the survival rate of Nigerien SMEs in ICT, renewable energies and the environment. This is a non-profit public-private partnership between the public authorities in Niger and several major private corporations (Orange CSR, Total, Veolia, CTIC Dakar, etc.).

The aims are to help start-ups access funding and national and international markets, limit administrative and tax red tape and train young talents, in particular in digital technology.

CIPMEN offers start-ups several personalised services, including:

The start-ups chosen for this programme are the winners of the Start-up week-end Niamey.

Lessons learnt

  • Organising open innovation events allows the local authority to identify innovative stakeholders on its territory.
  • The municipal public sector can guide supportive structures to the private sector on themes that are in the public interest (ICT, renewable energies, environment, etc.).
Suggestion box

Work with start-ups to develop digital tourism services

  • Geolocalise tourism offers (accommodation and catering) on online mapping systems
  • Create an interactive map with places of interest to create a tourism itinerary
  • Publish up-to-date practical information online (times, access, prices, etc.)
  • Publish an up-to-date schedule of local cultural and sports events online
  • Install flash codes on historical and heritage buildings that link to tourist information
  • Opt for audio guide applications at the tourist sites for interactive visits
  • Set up an e-ticket service for online management of visitor flows
  • Install Internet terminals with free access and/or Wi-Fi in tourist places
  • Create forums for sharing experiences and visitor comments

Mekong Innovative Start-up Tourism
Mekong basin

A programme devoted to supporting start-ups specialising in the tourist sector in the Mekong basin.

This initiative is developed by the Greater Mekong Sub Region (GMS) economic cooperation programme, grouping together six States via its tourism coordination bureau. It follows on from the revision of the tourist strategy of the GMS of 2010-2015 with a first edition in 2017.

This is a contest that selects the twelve best start-ups for a bootcamp organised in partnership with the Mekong Business Initiative (Australian government, Asian Development Bank) and regional start-up incubators Incubators Support structure for business creation projects. Provide know-how, a network and logistics during the first stages of the life of the company. Incubators address companies that are very young or in the course of being incorporated.
Incubators stand out by the services they propose, whether or not they are profitable or by the type of projects they target.
Since the mid 2000s, “second generation incubators” have appeared known as accelerators, offering aid for the creation of a firm in exchange for shares in the new company.
. A second competition is organised after this training with five awards (from 7,000 to 10,000 USD) distributed to the start-ups judged as the top performers.

The winner of the first prize was the Myanmar start-up “GoP”, offering an online platform listing local stakeholders proposing tourist circuits and local guides. The site can be used to make bookings and to have access to instant information for planning a trip to Myanmar without wasting time. It has not been translated into English. This initiative gives access to the market for local stakeholders, firms and guides.

Lessons learnt

  • This initiative is jointly run by several border States around a common challenge and can be replicated on the scale of the neighbouring local authorities.
  • In a region experiencing strong growth in tourist numbers, digital innovation constitutes one of the levers of local economic development and can vitalise an entire regional ecosystem.

Smart Tourism Destination: territorial and digital strategy

A national initiative builds a favourable framework for municipalities to integrate local procedures.

The national “Smart Tourism Destination” programme was deployed in thirty-three average-sized cities in China from 2009 under the impulse of the Chinese Council of State to promote the “smart” image of these towns and redirect tourist flows away from traditional destinations.

The initiative comprises three components.

  • The development of connected objects and sensors for implementing analysis of automated information. In the town of Sanya for example, this system is used to manage tourist sites: an RFID (radio-identification) chip is incorporated into the entrance ticket. The system is designed to control the number of visitors to heritage sites, which in turn are controlled by a set of sensors (air quality, human density, electrical consumption).

Lessons learnt

  • This reform introduced at national level enables balancing of the appeal of the Chinese territory and redistribution of revenue from tourism at local level.
  • Local authorities take advantage of this national programme to develop their own uses of digital tools in the tourism sector.

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