What others can teach

21 October 2022

Last April, Riga created the new Digital Agency to facilitate the city’s digital transformation and accelerate the use of a digital-first approach when offering services to its citizens. As a new partner in the UserCentriCities, we spoke to Āris Dzērvāns, Director of the Digital Agency in the City of Riga and Inga Barisa, Advisor at the Digital Agency in the City of Riga to understand what they are hoping to get from and how they plan to participate in the projects’ activities.

Why did you create a digital agency in Riga?

Āris Dzērvāns

As an agency, we are establishing ourselves as digital drivers. We are creating new approaches to the municipality’s public systems and services. We are moving towards developing a customer journey when designing our services.

We also involve our citizens in discussions and working groups the different departments have to ensure they are more agile and user-centric, not only on digital services but all our services. How can we enable users of the city’s services to work with us and create together? This is our main value.

Are you encountering any challenges?

Āris Dzērvāns

It’s not easy for a city to change, especially if you have been doing something for more than 25 years, and suddenly someone is asking to do it entirely differently.

So, it requires a cultural change. But everybody understands that this is a necessity.

How do you see the UserCentriCities project help you in your process?

Āris Dzērvāns

We are now defining our new strategy, functions and internal culture. At this stage, it is valuable to have tools like the UserCentriCities dashboard to benchmark yourself against other cities. Even by looking at the dashboard questions, we can already learn about how others have thought about this and if we have missed some relevant indicators.

It’s beneficial to be part of the discussions in the project and go through this maturity assessment. It helps us identify what we are doing and what we need to do to be more successful.

Another exciting tool for us is the toolkit because the collection of best practices that are showcased can inspire us to understand how to design our services in a user-centric way. We are looking at the dashboard as an inspiration and at the toolkit as a practical tool for how we can improve our e-services and our services in general.

Panoramic view of Riga

Inga Barisa, Advisor at the Digital Agency in the City of Riga

I was intrigued by the practical examples from Espoo and Emilia Romagna. So, I’m going to connect to those partners so that they can walk us through their experience in practice.

We are looking forward to exchanging with peers at the European level. This is why we also joined the living in EU platform so that we can work on a broader European vision for the digitalisation of public services.

What are some concrete actions that you are introducing at the city level?

Āris Dzērvāns

We have about five digital agents that we are sending to other departments to evaluate how they are doing their services and to discuss how we can transform them by making them more user-centric and more digital. We don’t want to take existing processes and digitalise them using the same steps.

The goal is to speak to all departments and agencies that are responsible for public services, from traffic management to social benefits allocation, and understand how we can bring them closer to the users’ needs, which technologies would enable them to be more agile and how to get maximum value out of them.

On the other hand, we are moving towards taking decisions based on hard data. At the moment, we have data, but we don’t have the capability to present it so it can be used for decision-making.

We are working on getting approval from the national level to fund the development of our e-services. And once we design our services, all the tools that UserCentriCities has developed will be helpful. The best practices others have done will be beneficial for us to become front runners in the digital world.


Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer