Interview with Ángela Pumariega, vice mayor of Gijón

DATE March 5, 2024

Interview with Ángela Pumariega, vice mayor of Gijón

The progress towards the concept of a smart city represents a significant milestone in municipal management, where the integration of innovative technologies becomes the engine of transformation. In this context, Gijón stands as a benchmark, leading initiatives that redefine the way in which the city addresses its challenges and takes advantage of the opportunities of the 21st century.

On the occasion of the next I RECI Technical Committee that will take place in Gijón on March 7 and 8, a revealing interview has been carried out with Ángela Pumariega, vice mayor of the city, where the fundamental pillars that support this avant-garde vision are explored. From environmental sustainability to social innovation, through the digital transformation of the Administration, Gijón embraces a broad and ambitious agenda that covers multiple aspects of urban life.

  1. Taking into account that a strategy to become smart city It can cover many areas of municipal management. Which do you consider to be the priority?

It is a very interesting question, but the answer is not simple. Our approach has been to advance on several fronts in parallel: on the one hand, in environmental sustainability, understood above all from the front of energy efficiency, although not exclusively. On the other hand, in mobility, both in relation to urban transport and the use of shared vehicles by municipal staff. Another front has been that of social innovation, in aspects such as training in digital skills, citizen participation, the use of open data, the promotion of a local innovation ecosystem... Another relevant aspect is tourism, where we want to offer the more advanced services to the people who visit us. And all of this, together with the transformation of the way we do things in the Administration, culminating in the digitalization of our processes, making them more agile, simpler and more accessible to citizens. It is a work aimed at many areas at the same time, and it is difficult to single out only a few as priorities, although it is clear that from a budgetary point of view we are making the greatest effort to improve sustainability and energy efficiency.

  • How is the implementation of smart technologies contributing to the environmental sustainability of Gijón?

In a very remarkable way. On the one hand, we have replaced all public lighting luminaires, more than 42,000 lamps, with point-to-point managed LED technology devices, and we are working to do the same in the lighting installations of all municipal buildings. This, in itself, not only represents a very significant reduction in the electricity consumption bill, but also has an environmental impact because we are consuming fewer resources. In addition, we have contractually guaranteed that we will only consume electricity from renewable sources, and we have enabled an intelligent grid management system that also enables additional savings, both financial and resource. All of this contributes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and has an impact on the planet's ecosystems. On the other hand, we are also working to encourage greater use, by our citizens and companies, of Gijón's energy resources, promoting production through renewable sources and the creation of energy communities. And our list of projects does not end there: we have initiatives underway regarding public transportation, promotion of electric vehicles, air quality control... The technologies that we already have at our disposal will allow a substantial improvement in these and other fields, such as smart irrigation management, waste management, etc.

  • Projects such as 'Gijón-IN' have been launched from Gijón, which aim to promote the development of Gijón towards the model of a smart city. What other projects or initiatives smart city are currently underway in Gijón? And how do you think RECI can contribute to better development?

As I just mentioned, our menu of projects is very broad, to the point that sometimes it is difficult to cover so many areas at once. The transformation of our energy management model has been channeled through a contract for an amount of more than 184 million euros, which will continue to be executed until 2037. This framework integrates a good part of the initiatives that I mentioned before, but we have others many projects in the portfolio, such as those I have mentioned in terms of mobility or the Gijón DemoLAB, which is a network of municipal spaces for research, testing and the exchange of knowledge between agents of the innovation ecosystem, which we want to act as a generator of competitive advantages at a business level and new employment opportunities in Gijón. Another aspect that we are going to promote starting this year, thanks to the support of European funds through the PRTR, is the improvement of the digital skills of our population, to reduce the digital divide and collaborate so that all people can benefit from the advantages of the digital society. And all this, without forgetting our active participation in different forums and networks for the promotion of innovation, among which the RECI undoubtedly occupies a very prominent place.

  • What are the main challenges that Gijón faces on its path towards transformation into a smart city?

They are probably very similar to those faced by all the cities around us, which are immersed in the same processes. We could talk about budgetary challenges, on the one hand, because many of the measures that we want to promote involve an initial investment of a certain magnitude, which is not always possible to undertake in the short term. The needs of a city are many and varied, and that is why we must be very rigorous in the management of financial resources, for example by establishing a multi-year investment calendar. But there are also other challenges that have more to do with the cultural change that we want to take place in society. The transformations are not always well received by the population, and it is necessary that the Administrations take into account the feelings and opinions of our citizens about the challenges to be posed and how to resolve them. Citizen participation is a fundamental element in innovation processes, because without people's support we will never be able to achieve our objectives. Finally, it is necessary to also try to change the traditional culture within public administrations, to try to make them more agile, more efficient and more oriented towards solving the problems that citizens point out to us as most urgent and priority.

  • How does belonging to the RECI help Gijón to collaborate with other cities, companies or institutions in the field of smart cities?

As I indicated before, direct communication with other cities, to share experiences and learn from each other, represents invaluable support to the way in which we guide our objectives and focus our projects, and in this sense the role of forums like the RECI is fundamental and it must be valued. Many of the problems we face are common or similar, even at the European level, and it is easier to find appropriate answers if cities operate in a coherent and coordinated way, sharing learning and experiences. Regarding collaboration with companies and research centers, it is another fundamental pillar, because most of the technological innovation comes from these entities and this continuous communication allows us to be up to date with the developments that continually emerge in the processes and methods to manage cities. In this sense, in Gijón we maintain agreements with the University of Oviedo, with the Polytechnic University of Madrid and with other innovation centers, which allows us to know the state of the art and best practices, as well as participate in the development of strategies. that allow us to position ourselves as a smart city.

  • The first RECI Technical Committee in 2024 will take place in Gijón on March 7 and 8. What does the Gijón City Council expect from this event?

We hope above all that the participants, who will come from all over Spain, feel at home here and can make the most of these days of work and shared learning. We want to tell you in detail about the projects we are working on and also learn from the initiatives that are being developed in other cities, from which we can obtain very valuable ideas. The public day on March 7 will allow all citizens to participate in these processes and learn about the most recent advances in the world of smart cities. We want to give maximum dissemination to the Technical Committee to favor this process of exchange of ideas and to make the most of the quality of the people and specialists who will present their experiences at the conference.

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