Set beside the Adriatic Sea, at the southern tip of the Istrian peninsula, the Croatian municipality of Pula is home to a multitude of well-preserved Roman buildings, aromatic wines and pristine beaches. Curious to know more about how the Local Council is integrating high-speed connectivity into the municipality’s everyday life, the WiFi4EU team spoke with Digital Officer of Pula, Dražen Stepanov.
Pula is among the proud winners of the first WiFi4EU call, which took place in November 2018. So far, 438 Croatian municipalities secured a grant during the three calls of the WiFi4EU programme, meaning that 79% of eligible entities in the country have been granted a voucher. The initiative enjoys great success across the country also thanks to the Department for International Cooperation and European Policies, which constantly monitors European tenders and news.
Aware of the connectivity needs of its citizens, Pula already features a free public Wi-Fi network called PulaFreeAir. The access points were covering touristic areas, sports facilities, and even public buses, but the increasing number of devices connecting to Wi-Fi convinced the Local Council to apply for a WiFi4EU voucher to expand the network. “Since the City of Pula had already a system of free internet in the city centre, our wish was to expand coverage to the locations with the largest number of potential beneficiaries and to make the connection even more secure and more stable”, explained Stepanov.
The WiFi4EU network, composed of 14 access points, was officially launched on 9 September 2019. Citizens and tourists were informed through press releases and social media and have ever since provided very positive feedback. “Life without the Internet today is almost unthinkable. Therefore, our role as local government is to provide for our citizens and the increasing number of tourists visiting our city the infrastructure to enable them to use the internet at any time.”
Increased coverage is also crucial to allow citizens to fully take advantage of the digital services developed by the city of Pula. In 2007, the municipality pioneered the implementation of e-government services in the daily work of the city administration. This resulted in cuts in bureaucracy, reduced administrative processing times, savings in money and time for both the citizens and the municipality. “Since then, the system has been constantly upgraded with new, innovative solutions”, added Stepanov, explaining how services such as e-invoice, e-consultations, e-budget, and e-kindergarten are now part of the everyday life of the citizens of Pula. For tourists visiting all year round, the municipality has developed the app Pula on the palm of your hand, which offers information on the city in a simple and interactive way.
The city of Pula has now its eyes set on ensuring high-quality connectivity to its citizens while investing in new services and a smart solution. Thanks to funding schemes such as WiFi4EU, “Pula has made significant progress in terms of cultural, economic, tourism and social development”, happily commented Stepanov, who is keen to share the experience of the municipality with other municipalities across Europe.