Le Havre on its way towards increased citizen participation and digitisation of public administration

Situated at the mouth of the River Seine, the port city of Le Havre, led by mayor Édouard Philippe, was almost completely rebuilt after World War II. The unusual concrete architecture of Le Havre, designed by Auguste Perret, has resulted in the city centre becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.

Nowadays, Le Havre is known as an up-and-coming tourist hotspot in France which is on a voyage towards increased citizen participation and digitisation of public administration. Within the framework of the Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC), Caroline Maurand (local city ICC manager) explained how they are navigating the challenging waves of economic recovery while overcoming at the same time the difficulties of the pandemic.

The Intelligent Cities Challenge (ICC) is a European Commission initiative bringing together 136 cities to achieve intelligent, socially responsible and sustainable growth through advanced technologies. The two-and-a-half-year programme builds on the previous success of the Digital Cities Challenge, which helped 41 EU cities to develop a strategic vision and roadmap for their digital transformations. In overcoming the difficulties of the pandemic, ICC cities are eager to become engines of economic recovery by creating new business opportunities, advancing sustainable developments and enhancing their cities both digitally and socially.

Le Havre’s main ICC goal is to develop a roadmap for a digital transformation of the city, based on the needs and demands of actual users. It hopes to shine the spotlight on the city’s inhabitants and how they can use advanced technologies to improve their daily lives. Local city ICC manager Caroline Maurand said that this is “intimately linked to our interest in spurring innovation within our community of businesses, which we believe if given the right tools and conditions to work in, can be the source of new solutions responding to the needs of our citizens and driving the transformation of the territory as a whole.”

Le Havre has launched several ambitious projects aimed at achieving these goals, including:

  • a programme to support intrapreneurship and innovation within the city’s public administration, offering their employees the opportunity to launch and develop new ideas to deliver smarter and innovative public services,
  • an ambitious innovation programme involving 20 projects, carried out in partnership with 40 local and national stakeholders to ensure a global transition within ten years in the urban and maritime territory,
  • smaller initiatives that address immediate needs during the pandemic, such as the development of an online commercial retail platform aimed at connecting small businesses with demand.

The framework of the Smart Port City project, which is financed by the central French government, will execute many of Le Havre’s projects. The city’s projects will also be supported by the Havre French Tech association and the Cité Numérique, which will offer their valuable networks, innovative approaches to business development and infrastructure.

Representatives from Le Havre expect a lot from the ICC, primarily that it acts as a platform and a facilitator to rally the city’s digital local ecosystem around a common cause. Their ultimate hope is for the ICC to develop a common governance model that allows different stakeholders to meet, discuss and debate important issues.

Le Havre wishes to develop a community of digital transformation champions and to form a clear idea of the city’s direction in 10 or 15 years. The city expects the ICC to be a catalyst of this process, while contributing specific expertise and fostering city connections across Europe. Finally, Le Havre hopes that the ICC will be a source of inspiration that brings digital solutions closer to citizens.

Source and photo: intelligentcitieschallenge