CORA partners visited Hedmark, Norway on 22-24 May 2019 to learn from the experience of the Norwegian and Swedish partners. At the first stop at Kongsvinger library, the focus was on Kongsvinger municipality’s digital agenda, digital services and lessons learned. Kongsvinger digitalisation formula is combining user demands, improving work processes & implementing change management, upgrading technology and improving governance. The municipality and the citizens decide together how to address the major challenges in digitalisation. Kongsvinger library helps inhabitants to improve their digital skills by e.g. offering courses in using computer, internet, e-mail or e-commerce.
The next stop was at Finnskogtoppen, at the Norwegian-Swedish border, where a cross-border fibre-sharing point is to be established. Preparation for the deployment of the cross-border fibre between Sweden & Norway is progressing well. Partners from Hedmark (NO) and Värmland (SE) are working together to master administrative and technical challenges. On the Swedish side, the fibre will be deployed partly under water. An access point to the fibre from Sweden will be installed directly at the border. From there, a Norwegian company will extend the fibre to the households and businesses on the Norwegian side.
Hedmark, NO, has several rural areas without access to fast internet (white spots). The challenges are addressed in the broadband strategy of Hedmark and are already tackled For example, Grue Municipality (Hedmark, NO) started a project on rolling out fibre, aiming to increase the access to high speed Internet from 10% of all households in 2018 to 72% in 2019.
Besides cross border fibre sharing, improving the digital skills of elderly is a challenge in rural areas of Sweden and Norway. Torsby Municipality (Värmland, SE) is implementing soft measures with a “Go Digital” workshop series, where young people are teaching elderly how to use the Internet. A similar concept will be implemented in three participating rural municipalities in Norway, namely Kongsvinger, Grue and Eidskog.
Overall implementation of the CORA project is on track. Multiple training materials for rolling out broadband, improving digital skills & services are available online at coraproject.eu and the 10 pilots are being implemented in partner regions. The main challenges identified by partners in implementing the pilots so far are:
- Lack of awareness on all levels of stakeholders (end-users, politicians) for cross-border and transnational solutions,
- Administrative barriers,
- Tensions between stakeholders (national, regional, local level, business) as to who is responsible (for digital infrastructure, digitalisation or measures focusing on digital skills),
- Engaging end users, as they are not yet aware of the benefits and do not see the necessity of implementation.
The next CORA partner meeting and stakeholder conference are planned for 6-8 November in Groningen, Netherlands.