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How digital solutions can spark Europe’s green recovery

By Agnieszka Skorupinska, Senior EU Advisor - Green Economy, AMAP Government Relations and Policy Engagement - EU Affairs, Vodafone Group

As Europe resurfaces from the pandemic, we are more committed than ever in supporting Europe’s digital and green recovery. We know that digital solutions can be a catalyst for change in our cities (air quality monitoring, intelligent streetlights, waste collection, transportation) and in our villages allowing farmers to combine productivity and environmental resilience.

We recently hosted an EU Green Week partner event on the importance of digital in Air Pollution in Cities and Soil Pollution in Farming. The event gathered speakers from across the EU institutions, academia, and the private sector.

For the event, we partnered with Joost de Kluijver, founder of a Dutch social enterprise Closing the Loop. Closing the Loop ensured that each mobile device used by our attendees was compensated. Closing the Loop does this by the safe collection, transport and recycling of electronic waste from emerging markets.

Smart Cities Panel

Here are our top takeaways from the event in case you could not make it:

Tackling Air Pollution in European cities

Air pollution in cities Our panel consisted of representatives from Brussels Smart City, Eurocities, European Commission, and Vodafone. Our speakers discussed the right ingredients for digital solutions for zero pollution in our cities and among them mindset shifts (electronic vs paper), sharing knowledge, helping implementation (i.e. via Mission Board and Climate City Contracts here), appropriate data governance model, and above all putting the citizens first so that smart solutions make cities liveable. Smart city solutions such as IoT technology, 5G and AI can help (via aggregated and anonymous data) to reduce i.e. street lights energy consumption, identify new public transport routes based on traffic congestion data and more importantly it is making difference now – and not in few years time.

The transition is about people – we need to provide skills set, educate people, listen to them in order to allow them to fully embrace technology.

Digital solutions can help reduce soil pollution

Our second panel highlighted the issue of soil pollution in farming. Our panel consisted of representatives from European Commission, European Parliament, academia (ITU Dresden) and Mezzanine/Vodafone. We need not only smart cities but also smart villages. Europe still has a major digital divide that we need to overcome. But connectivity is not a purpose in itself – what matters is how it is used and how it serves local communities/ how to build digital skills/ trust, etc.As during the first panel, the issue is not lack of technology but its uptake and effective deployment. We need to prove that technology can deliver both to farmers and consumers 1) allowing farmers to participate in the value chain/giving access to market so that they are keen to invest; waste reduction gains 2) for consumers digitally, enabled traceability will give more transparency about products, and awareness about total footprint of products = behaviour change/demand driven transition.

The overall consensus was that digital and green transformations will be essential to meet EU Green Deal ambitions and Europe’s recovery. The Green Deal can become a new business model if the enabling environment is there: connectivity, skills, investments (both public and private), data and collaboration between all stakeholders and co-creation.

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