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When designing policy, we should never forget to consider how people feel

Conversation with Vytautas Mitalas, Deputy Mayor and Egle Radvile, Chief Technology Officer with the City of Vilnius

  • October 25, 2019 17:30
  • Author Aseniya Dimitrova
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Source: TheMayor.EU

Vytautas, could you say a few words about the concrete measures and projects that you have implemented to attract investment in the city of Vilnius and which are the specific high added value jobs that you would like to attract?

Vytautas: One of the concrete actions that Vilnius started with was to establish its own Investment attraction agency, called GoVilnius and now it is around three years old. There was a heavy debate about establishing it, but we did it in order to position ourselves better at the European level, but also globally.

Its main tasks are to help steer investment attraction - to do all the consultancy work for the Vilnius city municipality offices which are responsible for different fields in order to make investment attraction quicker and more efficient and to also promote the city's tourism and markets internationally. So, one of the main tasks is to attract direct foreign investment.

Talking about concrete talents we are looking for, the ICT talent pool is quite big, but more talent is still needed to come for expansion of different service platforms. And nowadays in Vilnius if you are a programmer, you could easily find a job.

For some businesses the lack of talent needed for expansion is a problem they're already faced with. ICT professionals, programmers, technicians are really welcome in Vilnius. Also, everyone who speaks more than one language is really welcome in Vilnius. These are some of the key professionals we are now looking for.

And do you already have some concrete results?

Egle: Indeed, we have interesting numbers and KPIs. I would mention that Vilnuis is:

  • 7th mid-sized Global city of the future
  • 2nd Smart Location of the Future FDI strategy
  • one of the fastest growing innovators in Europe (European Commission, 2018)
  • Most Dynamically Developing City of the Year in Central and Eastern Europe 5th time in a row (CEE Business Services Awards)
  • 98% of residents are happy to live in Vilnius (European Commission, 2016)
  • Among the top 10 cities in the world for work-life balance (Expert Market, 2016)
  • Offers best business climate in the region (Business-FriendlyCity Perception Survey
  • Has won the Promotion Strategy of the Year (Emerging Europe Awards)

So, Egle, you mentioned happiness. Could you tell us about the Happiness index - how it works and what is its purpose?

Let’s start with the purpose. It is meant to show us the emotional state of Vilnius at any given moment. It is very important to use the right technology, not just to go around and ask people how they feel. To do this, we are using sensors and cameras to measure and scan passengers in the streets. All the data is stored into a database for scientists to analyse and develop an algorithm. The result of this is the happiness index.

We measure different emotions, like level of stress, surprise and others. And in the end what matters most is the combination of these emotions.  Then we have the Happiness index. We call it this way, but actually it is about well-being as it measures the well-being of citizens in the streets during the day.

And how was the idea born?

The idea originated from a European Project in which Vilnius is a partner. Collaboration between Vilnius Municipality and Vilnius technical University. We wanted to discover the mood of children and understand how people live and feel. This is when we really started to think how to do this in practice, to combine our knowledge, to work together on our problems and situations, using different statistics.

So far is Vilnius turning out to be a happy City, according to the Index?

Well it is about the situation at the moment. Normally, if we can obtain the results of large number of people and their current emotional state, it will be ok. But we cannot forget Maslow, according to him our emotions are essentials.

We can predict the emotional mood and it is very nice. For instance, we can predict moods on Fridays, on holidays and these predictions can be used by business. If we can predict how people will feel after two weeks, we can plan our city.

And how do you connect this data and policy?

First our starting point is about intelligent community. This means that we look deeply into emotions, we should never forget how people feel when designing policy. This is important for education, greenery, park, transport policy, etc. So now we measure how people feel and it is very helpful as we are not just talking or imagining things, we measure whether it feels alright or not.

And what about the emotional climate in schools that you are motivated to measure as of next year?

Vytautas: We did first measure two years ago and our indicators and national research shows that we should work on improving the emotional environment in schools. So, the happiness index is not only a tool to measure or to add to what happens now in the research in schools, but it is also a tool to address the issue of happiness and to make society more open and focus on this issue.

In schools and also in other fields we are aiming to have an emotional climate as one of the main indications to steer municipal policies and intervene. As our data shows, there is a reason to do it, to improve schools.

Finally, Vilnius is exceptional when it comes to open data. Could you say a few words about why you decided to open your data?

Egle: I would say only three words: transparency, efficiency and innovation. Transparency enables us to do a lot of things, like documents to use for by the citizens.

Efficiency is about helping citizens find and do whatever they need without having to go to the municipality, for example. They can just do this all online.

And in terms of innovation, we are working on hackathons, there are a lot of them in Vilnius. Open data is the main tools for hackathons. For start-ups, we have great examples, including our mobility app, which is based on open data as well.

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