Project Overview

European citizens do not participate equally in the Information society: in fact, the digital gap is moving down from infrastructures to uses. Based on this observation, local authorities in Europe have developed Digital Public Spaces (DPS) promoting e-inclusion.

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4. Association of Local Authorities in Västernorrland County, ALAV (SE)

 

Who are we?
 
The Association of Local Authorities in the County of Västernorrland is owned by, and operated for the benefit of, the seven municipalities in the county. One of our main tasks is to facilitate co-operation over municipal borders. One way of doing this is by providing various forums where public officials and civil servants can share best practice and discuss new ideas. We also offer courses and conferences that focus on issues of current interest for various categories of professionals.
 
The Association often acts as a project coordinator, helping to transform ideas into reality. Our involvement often results from contacts and discussions on the local level. A question can arise from a specific need shared by a number of municipalities or through monitoring current affairs. In general, the open dialogue that we conduct with our local authorities is a prerequisite for the success of our work. The areas that we focus on are growth and development, social services, education, integration and employment, environment and social planning.
 
Together with our neighbouring county Jämtland, we maintain an office in Brussels called the Mid-Sweden European Office, which provides us with a good understanding of those EU level issues that impact our region and its municipalities.
 
 
Where do we come from?
 
Västernorrland County is located at the centre of Sweden, and Scandinavia. Västernorrland is a leading industrial county that makes important contribution to the economy and prosperity of Sweden. Basic industries have long been our economic backbone, but are increasingly being supplemented by new clusters and innovative systems. Tourism is showing a rapid increase. Sundsvall-Härnösand is the leading labour market region in northern Sweden, with its population of 200,000 residents, who are integrated through work-related commuting. Both the residents of, and visitors to, our county enjoy a fine quality of life, with a rich diversity of natural and cultural experiences.
 
It’s easy to get to Västernorrland by train on the East Coast route (Ostkustbanan) from the south or the Middle route (Mittbanan) from the east, or the Bothnia route (Botniabanan) from the north. There are flights to the three airports in our county.
 
 
The present
 
Västernorrland’s location at the centre of Sweden and Scandinavia makes it an integral part of the broader European and northern Scandinavian systems, and a key trans-regional player. The county enjoys valuable advantages thanks to its excellent natural and living environment. However, trends in Sweden have led to a huge concentration of the population of the country to the metropolitan areas, while the northern half of Sweden (of which Västernorrland is the southern outpost) accounts for less than one-tenth of the population. Västernorrland is a large region with a variety of towns and villages generally located along river valleys and the coast. The county, with its approximately 243,000 inhabitants, accounts for about three per cent of the population of Sweden, and 5.3 per cent of the country’s area. The population density of Västernorrland is 11.2 inhabitants per km2 compared to 22.6 nationwide.
 
 
Future visions
 
The Regional Operational Programme (ROP) for Västernorrland focuses on three main strategic goals;
 
Population growth: Västernorrland in 2020 should have 250,000 inhabitants, who enjoy an excellent quality of life and a tolerant atmosphere. The fine nature and environment should contribute to the attractiveness of the county. More people would move here, more children would be born, more housing would be built, and people would live longer. The potential represented by immigration should also be utilised. The county would have a well-balanced population structure as to age and gender.
 
Increased accessibility: Västernorrland requires major investments to overcome geographic and social distances, and open the county to its surroundings in a functional, sustainable and competitive manner, through rapid, well-adapted and environmentally-friendly transportation throughout a well-balanced region.
 
Increased innovational ability: Västernorrland has stable competitive strength. The county’s inhabitants, businesses and organisations possess a high level of skill and expertise, creativity and the ability to innovate. This ability, coupled with an active, enterprising spirit and investments in key areas, has additionally encouraged innovation and development in cutting edge sectors.
 
Why are we here?
 
One characteristic of northern Sweden is long distances. For many, this means long trips to central towns in order to obtain goods and services. Most municipalities must deal with a declining, and increasingly older, population, while at the same time, needing to cut costs.
 
Studies have shown that older persons and people in rural communities use the Internet less than the national average. This, in combination with long distances to the cities and their goods and services, can pose difficulties in keeping up with the rapid developments taking place in our society.
 
Although a digital infrastructure exists, there are still many who for various reasons do not take advantage of it.
 
At the same time, the inhabitants show a high level of commitment to their communities, and want to actively affect their future.
 
Some want to make investments to reverse the negative trends. With the help of national projects and investments, a digital infrastructure has been built. More small local libraries, rural schools, service centres and individuals now have broadband access. This is a key factor for the development of small towns and villages far from the metropolitan areas, and affording their inhabitants the ability to obtain government information, express their opinions, increase their knowledge, and utilise the opportunities available through the Internet. In several of the county’s seven municipalities there are ongoing efforts to expand the use of digital services and to make life easier and more attractive. We can support and stimulate these efforts through E-COOP.
 
 
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