On 14 May 2020, Next2Met partners and stakeholders came together for their second Policy Learning Event during an online meeting hosted by the Office of Lower Austria Federal Government. After a first successful event in Lahti in January 2020, this virtual meeting aimed at fostering interregional exchange of good practices of soft digitalisation measures across different European regions. Bringing together more than 40 participants despite the online nature of the meeting, this Policy Learning Event triggered various discussions for further collaborations. More than ever in the context of COVID-19, this moment also enabled all participants to reflect on the essential role of digitalisation for peripheral areas. 

A time of exchange of good practices…

Due to COVID-19 restriction measures, Next2Met partners and stakeholders were not able to meet in Lower Austria. Nevertheless, the day opened with a digital alternative to discover the hosting region of this second Policy Learning Event. Thanks to Virtual Reality glasses, participants could take part in an immersive flight over Lower Austria just at the click of their mouse. Combined with an introduction to the region, all participants got a better overview of the assets and challenges of Lower Austria.

Coming from different European regions sharing similar challenges, this event was an opportunity for the participants to share their good practices and to learn from other regions’ actions. During the meeting, three local stakeholders presented their regional initiatives to improve the implementation of soft digitalisation measures in Lower Austria. Participants were introduced to the House of Digitalisation, an active network promoting digitalisation tools, a Glass Fibre project for a better connectivity of remote areas, and mobility services from the Office of the Lower Austrian Federal Government.

Throughout these presentations, Next2Met partners played a key role in the exchange of good practices. After each stakeholder, they shared and compared similar initiatives in their respective regions. This commenting role initiated productive exchanges of advice and potential cooperation.

…and a time to reflect on the role of digitalisation

This event was also a time to reflect on the current role of digitalisation for the peripheral areas. In the context of COVID-19, the attractiveness of these regions is more than ever re-thought. The participants reflected on a new society model, where digitalisation of the peripheral regions would be the key to tap their full potential of attractiveness. Mr Bernhard Gerhardter, from the Office of the Lower Austrian Federal Government, reminded participants of the motto of the digitalisation strategy of Lower Austria: “Use the digital transformation. For the country, for the people.”

This second Policy Learning Event brought together various stakeholders and partners who warmly welcomed working together towards the decrease of structural gaps between the metropolitan and peripheral areas. This moment was an opportunity to get inspiration from other stakeholders, to discuss the transferability of the projects, and to exchange some recommendations across Europe despite COVID-19 restriction measures.

In Autumn 2020, a third Policy Learning Event will be organised by Next2Met partners from Barcelona Provincial Council. Considering the evolution of the situation, the event will be either organised in person or online.

 For more information, have a look at the event's presentations