After hearing about the initiative from the European Commission and the Slovak government, Trenčín decided to apply for a WiFi4EU voucher during the first call in November 2018, but was not successful. More than 13,000 municipalities applied for the 2,800 vouchers available for the first WiFi4EU call and the winners are selected on a first come first serve basis. “There are thousands and thousands of cities across Europe. I knew that timing would be the deciding factor”, explained the Vice-Mayor. Aware of the importance of Wi-Fi connectivity and digital services for the citizens, the Local Council found the motivation to apply again for the second call and managed to win a WiFi4EU voucher together with other 107 Slovak municipalities.
The next step for the municipality is to channel the newly-earned EUR 15,000 WiFi4EU voucher towards greater services for everyone. According to Žák, the initiative addresses “the people that do not have the means to be online with their smartphones all the time. So it is more inclusive for everyone”. In addition, “[WIFi4EU] helps anyone who is coming to Europe and does not enjoy the single Europe roaming for data. Tourists will be very happy with that”. Therefore, the hotspots will be placed in focal public spaces where they may be beneficial not only for all citizens but also for tourists.
The WiFi4EU voucher from the European Commission comes as a perfect complement to Trenčín’s efforts to become a smart community. The municipality is in the process of updating and upgrading the city website to integrate digital services such as a parking system that allows citizens to manage the parking spots available in the territory. Alongside the improvement of e-services, the Vice-Mayor is also looking forward to citizens taking advantage of the free high-speed connection to “have fun with their friends” and enjoy the parks and public areas of the municipality.
As the installation process starts and the network takes-off, Vice-Mayor Žák is eager to encourage other Slovak and European municipalities to apply to WiFi4EU, highlighting how all towns and cities can benefit from the initiative: “Because [a voucher of] 15,000 euros in a large city may be good, but it makes a huge difference in smaller cities”.