Benguerir is the capital of the Rehamna province, in Morocco. This traditional small town has presented itself in recent years, as an innovation and technology excellence center. If in 2009, the « Green city » initiative was launched near the existing metropolitan area, local authorities now observe a social fracture between this last one and the old town, which is poorer and offers fewer opportunities. Unemployment, which particularly affects young people, is also accompanied by a digital fracture.
By joining the ASToN network, local authorities wish to improve young people quality of life and create new employment opportunities by strengthening their digital skills and improving their access to various digital resources. In doing so, they also hope to fill a training gap and help create a more efficient employment market for the future.
Benguerir in figures
- Population: 100 000 inhabitants
- Surface area: 60 km²
- Population density: 1667/km²
- Local authority budget: 60 million MAD
- Smartphone penetration rate: 60-80%
- Internet access rate: 80-100 %
What does the city mean by “smart city”?
For Benguerir, the principles of a smart city include centralised governance, renewable energy, and ICT infrastructure. A smart city is one that optimises resources, gives comfort to citizens, and manages services better.
Furthermore, for Benguerir, a smart city also forms new kinds of interactions between its citizens, businesses and public services, because of improved speed and flexibility. Individual requests can be responded to and information communicated in real-time.
Citizen Participation/ Digital Divide
Benguerir’s chosen policy area is Citizen Participation/ Digital Divide
Benguerir is tackling the question: “How do we close the gap between the two physical parts of the city with the urban services we create?”
While the whole city has its economic challenges, the old part of the city is poorer and is home to less social opportunity. The province wishes to develop the whole region but use inclusion as a way to reduce the social gap between the highly invested “Green City” and the old city.
Unemployment is high in Benguerir, particularly for youth, who show a divide in their access to digital resources, as well as socially, within the city. The local authority wishes to improve the quality of life of young people, and open up new job prospects for them, by reinforcing their digital skills and improving access to a range of digital resources. By doing so, they also wish to fill an apparent training gap and contribute to a more robust labour market in the future.
Finally, the local authority wishes to see a more inclusive way to govern the city, and have identified youth as lacking a say in governance of the territory, especially on sustainability issues. The province wishes to see greater interaction between citizens and the services they are offered, and wants to build confidence between young people and the public administration.
Findings: the starting point for addressing these problems
The following findings set out the starting point for Benguerir as they work to address the digital divide for youth. Based on research conducted over the course of Phase 1, they describe the interlinked strengths and challenges that need to be taken into account.
High investment in Benguerir’s digital ecosystem offers an opportunity, and these resources must be used effectively.
Benguerir has in recent times had great investment in digital infrastructure, particularly in the Green City. This puts it at a strong position to offer digital services to its citizens and conduct a digital project. However, whether these assets can be used effectively is a key question that the city is currently dealing with.
The government understands the challenges for the city and wants to embrace digital to combat them.
The local authority has a good understanding of the territory and its challenges. It wants to use digital solutions to combat these challenges.
While there is limited capacity within the city authority, the ability for Benguerir to form partnerships with private actors bodes well for future projects.
The local authority does not have the human resources needed to independently conduct a digital project. However, recent success in forming partnerships with the local ecosystem, including public-private partnerships that want to close the digital divide, offer plenty of opportunity.
Benguerir has physical and social divides as much as digital.
Access to digital technology across the city is not merely something that can be solved by digital equipment or specific skills training. There is a socio-economic divide between parts of the city that will be difficult to address. The city has an unemployment rate of 40%, high levels of poverty, and frequent migration. These challenges are the reality that the city is trying to address between the two halves of the city.