For Next2Met project, creating solid bonds with stakeholders is essential in order to extend our knowledge and foster exchanges on digital good practices. Over the last few months, some of Next2Met partners established initial contacts with stakeholders, and some others strengthened their links with local actors. Despite the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, our partnership remained very active and our partners already adapted their activities to the situation with the use of interactive digital tools to bring together their stakeholders.

On November 20th, 2019, the Office of the Regional Government of Lower Austria held its first meeting with stakeholders in order to discuss the current status of digitalisation in Lower Austria. The event brought together 16 local stakeholders from various sectors such as the Chamber of Commerce of Lower Austria, research institutions or industrial partners from the region. Together with the Chamber of Commerce of Lower Austria, the Regional Government set up a survey on the use of digitalisation of companies located in the region. This survey will be an essential tool to support an analysis of the region and to implement further actions. The survey was conducted until the end of January 2020, and the outcomes will be analysed and shared in Spring 2020.

On January 23th, 2020, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Regional Authority organised its very first stakeholder meeting in Rostock, bringing together 16 participants from the University Rostock, University of applied science Wismar, Ministry of Digitalization Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. This meeting was a great opportunity to establish initial contacts with local actors. In addition to a presentation of Next2Met project, participants were introduced to various good practices such as digital innovation rooms and technology centres. 

On April 1st, 2020, the Eastern and Midland Regional Assembly (EMRA) held its second stakeholder meeting. Due to confinement measures, a virtual meeting was organised and enabled over 20 stakeholders to meet and participate via interactive tools. Among them were representatives of the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Local Authorities, IDA, Fáilte Ireland, Enterprise Ireland. This event aimed at discussing solutions to increase the attractiveness of the Midlands Region as a place to live, work and visit, using digitalisation measures. Local stakeholders exchanged various ideas and got inspiration from other regional authorities such as Next2Met leading partner the Regional Council of Päijät-Häme, and Offaly County Council (Ireland) who participated and shared their digital good practices. Further initiatives were shared by local stakeholders: Grow Remote presented their activities to promote remote working in order to boost the local economy, and Mersus Technology explained the functioning of their Virtual Reality Training Platform. This online meeting was warmly welcomed by the participants and deepened the cooperation with local stakeholders in the framework of Next2Met. 

More than before, soft digitalisation provides important tools in order to remain connected with each other during the COVID-19 pandemic. These circumstances show the necessity to improve the implementation of digitalisation in ‘next to met’ areas in order to ensure the fairest situation for these territories in all aspects of everyday life. In May 2020, Next2Met partners and stakeholders will meet virtually for an online seminar. This meeting will be an opportunity to engage further discussions on local good practices on the application of soft digitalisation tools.