Salzburg in on the ‘Cool City’ programme

There’s more to Salzburg than a baroque old town, the cult of Tracht clothing and a classical music festival. The city is just as much a pioneer in the fields of digitalisation and energy efficiency, and that’s great for people staying here.

The title used at the beginning of the digital offensive in 2012 sounded a bit cumbersome: ‘Salzburg opens up’. The current slogan is ‘Cool City’. This refers to the provision of complete WLAN coverage – free of charge, online access to all relevant municipal information, and an environmentally aware approach to planning activity. “We have to take a pioneering approach, both for the sake of tourists and our local youth. We don’t want young people to leave the city because they think of Salzburg as out of date. It should be an innovative place they can help to build”, announced Jochen Höfferer, Head of City Marketing.

This coolness benefits the city’s (conference) guests. There is a seamless, free WLAN service, there are cyclists everywhere, there are great pubs and venues, parties and plenty of avantgarde culture whichever way you turn. Salzburg doesn’t want to share its fate with other UNESCO world heritage cities, such as Venice, which is more of an open-air museum than a bustling hub of urban life and culture. The city’s development office expressed their goal as follows: “We want the city to remain a great place for local people to live and work.”

Best practice specialists for energy and transparency

Salzburg is an Austrian pioneer in the fields of digitalisation and energy efficiency. The largest sports facility in the city, in Liefering, is even capable of competing with international Plusenergie sports facilities like the Weserstadion in Bremen, Germany. In 2016, it was the first sports venue in Austria to be honoured with the country’s most prestigious climate protection award – a climate protection Oscar so to speak. In order to comply with all stipulations, it was required to meet all of the highest technological standards for overall evaluation - from planning, building materials and energy to room quality. The sports hall harvests energy from solar panels, geothermal infrastructure and building core activation, generating more energy than it consumes. This enables the sports facility to provide enough energy to heat and cool the nearby municipal supply depot, thereby generating an annual income of €80,000 via the sale of electricity.

According to the Smart City Masterplan 2025, passed in 2012, the planning of all building activity in the city must be subjected to an analysis of the costs for the entire life span of the project. “Previously, the costs of energy consumption were never made an issue. Now they are a decisive factor in commissioning procedures”, explained Smart City coordinator Franz Huemer, who also declared that Salzburg was no longer the only city to apply this method, reporting that Vienna, Graz, Innsbruck and Villach had also adopted the life cycle cost approach.

Salzburg is also forging ahead in the publication of municipal finances. Years ago, Salzburg became the first city in Austria to make all of its budgetary data available online: income, expenditure, subsidies etc. “We still set the standards when it comes to budgetary transparency”, explained Salzburg’s project manager for digitalisation Jochen Höfferer. He stated that he was often invited to speak as a best practice advocate at conferences, one such invitation having come from the Austrian Federal Computing Centre in Vienna. Salzburg has already sold the relevant software to half a dozen towns and cities in central Europe and is constantly faced with new inquiries.

Lighthouse projects

At the 1st Web Congress in May 2017 the city identified a further five lighthouse projects in the field of digital administration. ‘Venuzle’ is a leisure app that’s already in operation. Sports facilities and recreational amenities can now be booked and billed using this seamless electronic service, whether a sports hall, a yoga centre or a dancehall is required. Starting in the autumn of 2018, the city is to set up ‘Digi Cafes’ in old people’s homes to teach the inhabitants internet skills. One example of the benefits for users is the chance to conduct digital research into their ancestry.

Cycling metropolis

Critics may see things differently, but Salzburg is a veritable cycling hub. Every fifth road user here is a cyclist. This share of 20% of overall road traffic is one of the largest in Austria, behind Innsbruck and Bregenz. Only 7% of Vienna’s road traffic is accounted for by bicycles. Of course, this is still a long way behind the world’s major cycling cities, such as Copenhagen, Eindhoven and Oldenburg, where the annual average works out at 40% of city traffic. The cycle paths along both banks of the river through the city of Salzburg are particularly heavily frequented. The Smart City planners are now pushing ahead, aiming to expand the pathway network to provide the same standard of broad and straight routes with right of way for cyclists. They are similarly ambitious in terms of public transport usage figures and for car sharing. According to the Smart City coordinator, Mr. Huemer, there should be no contradiction between ‘cool’ joie de vivre and environmental awareness.

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