Northernmost capital in the world, Reykjavík is a fascinating city with a cosmopolitan feel. Its art museums, rich culinary scene and colourful buildings attract an increasing number of tourists and expats. With a EUR 15,000 WiFi4EU voucher in tow, the Icelandic city is now able to expand the offer of digital services and ensure connectivity for all. The WiFi4EU team spoke with Óskar J. Sandholt, Director of Service & Innovation for Reykjavík Municipality, to discover more about the digital strategy developed by the City Council and to gain insights into the role of connectivity in Iceland.
From left: Arna Ýr Sævarsdóttir, Manager of Service Design, Óskar J. Sandholt, Director of Service & Innovation, Þröstur Sigurðsson, Manager of Digital Reykjavik
According to Director of Service & Innovation Sandholt, the city of Reykjavík has a “digital first” strategy which places great emphasis on the digital transformation of the services offered. The WiFi4EU initiative emerged as perfect complement to the digital plan: “Reykjavík is very well connected in terms of all electronic communications infrastructure”, explained Sandholt, “but we have long aimed to add open, free internet access in selected places in the city“. The Local Council thus decided to apply for a WiFi4EU voucher in the first call of the project and was awarded the European Commission grant. Thanks to the initiative, the municipality was able to focus on ensuring that “residents have unrestricted access to information and are always connected to the internet”.
The installation of the WiFi4EU network was completed last December, and it included the deployment of 10 hotspots to cover four different public areas: Laugardalslaug, Kjarvalsstaðir (Klambratún), Hafnarhúsið and around Ráðhúsið. As described by the Director, “these are frequent destinations for residents and tourists. Here people are likely to stay for some time, sit down and enjoy meals or entertainment. The implementation was primarily made with the interests of the city's residents and its visitors in mind”. Free Wi-Fi connectivity benefits tourists, who will not incur roaming fees, and locals, who will be able to use a reliable network for leisure and business. “With this connection, the city improves its services and increases the freedom and equality of groups in access to the internet”, added Sandholt.
With a new public network in place, Reykjavík is now planning the next steps of digitisation: the Capital intends to convert all its services to digital over the next three years and make digital the first choice for citizens. According to Sandholt, “all the services that have been made digital so far have been well received, which shows that this is the method that citizens and tourists prefer”. The tourist information center was among the first facilities to be transformed into an e-service, allowing visitors to access bookings and timetables from different parts of Reykjavík without additional expenses, thanks to the WiFi4EU network. As the Director remarked, “by making services digital and opening up free internet connection, the tourist experience is being improved, and access to services easier and cheaper”.