Digitization was an explicit ambition for Lady Mayor Veerle Heeren: “We have 19 policy objectives that focus on digitization. One of these is to digitize civil affairs. Not an easy task because we had to start from scratch. The first step was investing in basic infrastructure with new servers and equipment. All the city buildings were equipped with glass fiber for ultra-fast connections.” In this story, Carl Nijssens, alderman for digitization, is determined to develop the city as a strong brand. “Sint-Truiden must become a ‘lovemark’ and citizens play a crucial role in this. Our story must be passed on from citizen to citizen. If we want to create a seedbed for our digital ambitions, we must show people that we are on the right track. That’s why we realized a number of quick wins.”
One of our first high-profile achievements was the offer of free Wi-Fi on the Grote Markt. Another implementation was Shop & The City, a digital loyalty card for anyone who shops in the city. Carl Nijssens: “As you shop, you can upload loyalty points via your QR code. Every month, there is a car to be won. Thanks to these quick wins, people feel that we are committed to renovation.” But the digital catch-up operation for citizens and businesses goes beyond that. The lady mayor stresses that there are a number of projects in the pipeline such as a new website, an e-desk and a booking and ticketing system for sports and cultural clubs. The jewel in the crown will be the citizen notification system, which will operate on the basis of new technology. Carl Nijssens: “The MyDigipass project will be launched together with our partner Vasco and will give citizens access to the administration’s online applications via mobile devices. The MyDigipass authentication solution has been duly recognized by the Federal Public Service for Information and Communication Technology, Fedict. Citizens will only need to upload their ID details on their smartphone once. Sint-Truiden will soon be the first city in Belgium where citizens will be able to identify themselves via their mobile device.”
IT coordinator Jef Rayen adds: “MyDigipass will be concretely implemented into the citizen notification system. If anyone wants to report a loose pavement slab for instance, they must do so in writing, by phone, e-mail, etc. Before long, they will also be able to report any issues like these via the new website or an app. Citizens will authenticate via MyDigipass, so that we know straightaway who reported what. This will also help us identify citizens’ policy interests and will allow us to send them targeted information.”
Another application of mobile identification: applying for certificates via the e-desk. Veerle Heeren: “Take someone who forgot to apply for a birth certificate for instance. Before long he will be able to apply for it while having a cup of coffee on the Grote Markt. The document will be e-mailed back to him in PDF format by return. Also registrations for academies or sports camps, the public library or the securing of our city staff’s laptops will soon be done via mobile ID card. An important aspect is that we are going to implement all this with the help of a test audience. They will become our ambassadors who will sell the concept to the wider public.” Carl Nijssens lists the benefits for all parties: “Citizens will be able to apply for documents 24/7 and will have to spend far less time queuing at the desk. Their satisfaction will increase and our public services will be able to work more efficiently.”
An essential success factor in this story is the support of trusted partners. Jef Rayen: “Our infrastructure is in place. All we have to do now is add the next layers to evolve towards a smart city. Proximus can help us in various areas, such as the monitoring of our energy consumption, business TV, SMS parking, safe shopping, etc.” Lady Mayor Heeren is determined to make 2016 the year of digitization for citizens. “We have achieved a fair bit already but there’s plenty more in the pipeline still, also in other policy areas, take the resurfacing of the Grote Markt for one. Sint-Truiden is a city of change. We want to develop the city of the future for the children of today.”
The central city, area-wise the largest in the province, is home to close on 40,000 people. It is known as the capital of fruit, its soccer team, the Kanaries (Canaries), plays in the highest division and it boasts important historic monuments.
Lady Mayor and Member of the Federal Parliament Veerle Heeren (CD&V) became city councilor in 1995. She has been leading the bench of eight aldermen for two years now.
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