Syntos, the Steinbeis Consulting Center, provides support with the development of a regional networking platform
As the Covid-19 pandemic has shown us, many small and medium-sized enterprises dependent on physical presence – stores or offices – can quickly run into existential problems in a crisis, especially during a lockdown. To secure the future viability of local authorities and SMEs, the Steinbeis Consulting Center Syntos joined forces with S-Public Services to develop an online forum called Regio-Plattform to enable local stakeholders to network with one another.
The major digital platforms are draining more and more purchasing power out of the regional economy, and many customers are changing their buying habits permanently and shifting towards online shopping. DStGB (the German Association of Towns and Municipalities) estimates that up to 100,000 stores in Germany will be forced to go out of business as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. This will have an impact on local self-administration and municipal finances. As the pandemic has shown, strong and transparent communication is important in securing trust and a feeling of community in civil society, i.e. among the general public. “Our conclusion from this is that small and medium-sized companies in regional areas – but also local authorities – will need an appealing profile in the digital world in the future, and by adopting a hybrid approach to marketing – combining digital and personal methods – they can even gain a clear competitive advantage,” says Steinbeis expert Dr. Ralph Bürk, with conviction. It is therefore important for regional businesses to be in a position to engage in the digital world of marketing and trading without anonymous global platforms. They also need to share know-how and resources with other regional stakeholders, to solve local challenges together, and to safeguard the innovation capabilities of all parties. Developed with the support of Steinbeis, the Regio-Platform set up by S-Public Services, a center of competence for e-government and part of the Sparkasse financial group, will lay the foundation for a new communication infrastructure.
Focus of the platform: communication and innovation
The goal of Regio-Platform is to allow stakeholders in the region to tap into useful communication and innovation tools and thus not only drive communication and innovation on a regional level but also strengthen collaboration between business, local authorities, and civil society. The platform offers digital communication tools (text, audio, and video), which are available to all registered users and come with a guarantee that data will be secured locally. This offers an everyday option for associations, NGOs such as churches, volunteering organizations, social services, and members of the public to communicate through their own regional network. There is a special innovation arena within the Regio-Plattform dedicated to the topic of regional innovation. In an increasingly digital world, events, projects, and collaboration between companies, local authorities, and motivated citizens help safeguard the future viability of regions. The Regio-Plattform also offers an array of tools for citizens to communicate with the administration, the district authority, and the local community. For example, some visits to government offices are now superfluous thanks to video conferencing. The local authorities also have ways to quickly keep specific citizens informed in person. The regional media can also use the platform to share online offers.
The Regio-Plattform set up by S-Public Services is an initiative of the Sparkasse financial group. It is based on an open concept to make it accessible to all stakeholders in the region. To maintain neutrality under public law, the platform should be funded and owned by county authorities. The joint project between the Syntos Steinbeis Consulting Center and S-Public Services is based extremely closely on platform concepts found in digital ecosystems. Aside from the counties acting as funders, numerous partners also offer support “as a service.” Users can register for a variety of digital authentication processes on the platform, making it possible to make use of all services through a single sign-in. “The Regio-Plattform is an appealing market place in the world of digital technology for business as well as cultural, community, and social interests in the regions,” summarizes Bürk.