Next stop on my journey: Stockholm and its trail blazing smart city initiatives. And when I say "smart", it does not mean necessarily "complicated". Sometimes, simple is smart. On Friday I met with my old friend Lars Hedberg who co-founded StokAB.The idea was simple: only dig the streets once, own the ducts and spur the development of an information society for all by making fiber easily available.
It is a success story copied now around the world. Many Governments like Singapore and Australia visited before deciding on an open fiber infrastructure to minimize impact and favor competition. Lars is a discrete but a quiet force whose vision is contagious. Over the years he has influenced projects not only in his country but also abroad. He is now a consultant but keeps close friendship with his former colleagues.
Lars picks me up at my hotel. As we drive, I notice city buses running on bio-fuel. A lot cleaner than gas nods Lars. Stockholm is definitely a green city. The beautiful buildings, the greenery, the fresh air and the proximity of the water are distinctive traits of the capital of Scandinavia. In the midst of the city built on 14 islands connected by 57 bridges, lies Ekoparken the first National City Park in the world.
We park downtown and we meet Lars Gustavson, StokAB's director for network strategies. They explain me the story behind this public-private partnership in Stockholm. Everybody is a winner: the city, the network operators (more than sixty in the inner city), businesses and the household customers. The schools and hospitals also have access to state-of-the-art communication thanks to an active network that StokAB operates for the city.
StokAb was founded in 1994. Fifteen years later, the city-owned company is profitable and has layed down more than 1 million kilometers of fiber Stokab’s core tasks are to build, operate and maintain the fiber optic communication network in the Stockholm region and to lease fiber optic connections. The company is competition-neutral and provides a network that is open to all players on equal terms.
Sweden has one of the best broadband infrastructure in the word and has benefited from subsidies from the local Government and the European Commission. Many city networks have emerged and the country leads the pace in Europe for Fiber-To-The-Home.One of the motivations is healthcare infrastructure. Sweden has an aging population and it is a daunting problem ahead. Lars notes a study showing that 30,000 euros can be saved per year if a senior citizen can be cared from home instead of special facility.
The open fiber infrastructure also has had environmental benefits beyond civil construction. More people work from home. Lars explains me that the environment is deeply rooted in the Swedish culture. Governments change but this aspect is widely respected. He takes the example of efficient air conditioning. StokAB's building like the rest of the city is cooled and heated by with the Baltic sea water. Did someone say smart?