GIG: How and when did the Smart Trikala initiative start?
Papastergiou: It was an idea before 2014, which I put into action when I assumed office as mayor that year. Basically, it is an effort to internalise new developments in technology with a focus on serving the citizen. The philosophy of Smart Trikala – or better, Intelligent Trikala – is about modernising public services, improving services directly based on the idea of the city always standing by the side of its citizens. That’s what makes it “smart.”
GIG: What were the most important obstacles and how were they overcome?
Papastergiou: In Greece, public administration often has bottlenecks and rigidities. We needed to create something new, with different methods with the inspired use of technology.
Many people fear change, but at the end of the day, the results validated the choices we made.
GIG: Which have been the most popular or successful of the applications?
Papastergiou: Without a doubt, the Citizen Service Line, “20000.” That’s the service for receiving citizen demands about simple, everyday issues, but also serves broader citizen needs during periods like the pandemic or an earthquake. The Citizens Service Line has a steadily increasing number of phone calls and emails, demonstrating its credibility with citizens. What remains is for us to improve services. In addition, the programme for tracking the routes of vehicles, in particular for waste collection, has enabled us to constantly improve their routes. Environmental monitoring and the water quality have also strengthened municipal services to everyone’s benefit.
GIG: Have any of the applications helped in dealing with the pandemic?
Papastergiou: Basically, we are expanding existing services: more rendezvous by phone to reduce visits to City Hall; a service for those unable to visit pharmacies and supermarkets; a food delivery service for those enrolled in food aid programmes; a service for repair personnel; a service for home activities during the quarantine; and an extension of the programme “Help at Home.”
GIG: Which institutions, private or public, have contributed to the initiative?
Papastergiou: Collaboration is always our objective. We collaborate, of course, with e-trikala, the municipal development company, as well as with a large number of private enterprises, branches of the central government, and social and civil society organisations.
GIG: What have been the funding sources?
Papastergiou: Funding has been minimal and comes from the municipality and e-trikala.
In face of economic constraints, we have developed a win-win situation between the municipality and private enterprises, which have shown confidence in our vision and are given the opportunity to publicise and promote their applications.
GIG: As President of KEDE, what interest has there been among other municipalities?
Papastergiou: At KEDE, we have created govHUB, with 12 applications for municipalities. But we have also promoted solutions for properties and companies struck by the pandemic. KEDE supports every relevant effort and works collaboratively with state institutions to find solutions to issues affecting everyday life. Fortunately, many municipalities are already showing results in implementing inventive, modern actions aimed at serving their citizens in accordance with regional needs.
GIG: What are the next steps you hope to take to develop the programme?
Papastergiou: To be able, through the state programme “Antonis Tritsis” and the National Recovery and Resilience Plan to expand these activities. If we love our cities and focus on the needs of our citizens, we will, in cooperation with society, free our citizens from the bureaucracy, tribulations, and time lost from unnecessary waiting in line for municipal services. To the contrary, creative time and strengthened productivity are the aspects of a “smart city” that enhance the quality of life for its residents.