Interview with the Mayor of Girona, Marta Madrenas
What made you decide to embrace and support the comerçlocal.cat scheme in your city?
In recent years, ICT has become the main focus of our government action. In addition, this scheme works in the same direction as another one of our priorities: the economic revitalisation of the area. Shop owners may think that having a physical presence in the area means that they don’t need a website. They’re wrong. With a website, people can search for them, geolocate them, find about what their opening hours are and understand what products or services they offer. This differential value is enough in itself to bring in customers and is an important step for expanding their market. In addition, using .cat opens a window for Catalonia to the digital and global world.
The aim of the comerçlocal.cat scheme is to provide shop owners with a website to give their shop an online presence. The idea is to bring the opportunities provided by the Internet closer to people. Do you believe that we need more humanisation of technology to close the digital divide?
The fact is that the Internet already affects us all in every way. We are often not aware of this, but many aspects of our everyday lives are already determined by the Internet. Therefore, and as this increases over the next few years, it is important to link together the concepts of people and the Internet. Technology must be used for the people, to improve their quality of life and facilitate human, economic, cultural or territorial relations but never to replace them”.
What are the main challenges facing Girona in the next few years with regard to the full inclusion of the information society in the city?
On the one hand, we must become a smart city where, as I was saying, technology is at the people’s service. There is an increasing number of citizen-focused applications adapted to the urban environment which improve everyday functioning. We must integrate them gradually, using a variety of resources. We must also gradually integrate the possibilities provided by social networks and applications to communicate directly with residents, find out what their worries and needs are, offer solutions and deepen the relationship between the Town Council and the citizens.
What measures does the Town Council propose to achieve new goals in this regard?
One of the elements providing the most possibilities is citizen participation, as it facilitates interaction with residents directly and for the resolution of issues affecting the city. We have already applied it, for example, to the Special Plan for La Devesa (Pla Especial de la Devesa), the first town planning project with full citizen participation, as well as with participation-based budgets, where every year each neighbourhood votes online for the project they want to go ahead. The electronic office for processing all documents online is another one of our large projects in this field. But, apart from specific cases, the government must promote the use of new technologies, making their use more common among those segments of the population that are less used to using them, with us acting as trainers and facilitators. Because the Internet and mobile devices are revolutionising our lives and are also an economic driver that is offering new opportunities for the future, for research and for job creation.