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European Week of Regions and Cities

#EURegionsWeekUniversity – Digital tools for the recovery and resilience of cities and regions during and after a pandemic

This session will explore the socio-technical challenges and the potential benefits of the rapid digital transformation induced by the COVID-19 pandemic, focusing in particular on cities and regions. It will bring together a group of experts with diverse backgrounds - from sociology to geography and from economics to broadband-related data analytics - to present empirical findings and discuss policy responses to such accelerated digitalisation processes.

We know from research at various scales that digital technologies may lead to economic growth and to new and potentially disruptive innovations. These processes tend to have strong spatial footprints and generate new opportunities and challenges for cities and regions. Importantly, they shape and are shaped by longstanding socio-economic and geographical divides. The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdowns increased our dependency on digital technologies and drastically accelerated digitalisation processes in various domains: from selling products online to working from home and from creatively designing services and products that can be consumed online to building robust lockdown-proof business models and digital infrastructure. This session will explore the socio-technical challenges and the potential benefits of this rapid digital transformation by bringing together a group of experts with diverse backgrounds, from sociology to transport and from economics to data analytics.

Wed 13, October 2021
16:30 - 18:00 CET
Emmanouil Tranos, Reader in Quantitative Human Geography, University of Bristol.
Hannah Budnitz, Research Associate in Urban Mobility, University of Oxford.
Mark Green, Senior Lecturer in Health Geography, University of Liverpool.
Dylan Henderson, Lecturer in Lecturer in Management, Employment and Organisation, Cardiff University.
Alexandra Tsvetkova, Lab Lead at OECD Trento Centre for Local Development, Spatial Productivity Lab.
Digital Transition
Association of European Schools of Planning (AESOP), European Regional Science Association (ERSA), Regional Studies Association European Foundation (RSA Europe)
English (EN)
Replay – English

Session summary

This session started with a talk from Dr Dylan Henderson on their research into Welsh SMEs and their engagement with digital technologies. Dr Hannah Budnitz presented her work with Dr Emmanouil Tranos on working from home, digital divides and internet speeds. Dr Mark Green discussed COVID-19 testing inequalities and presented evidence from the Liverpool mass testing pilot. Using these talks as a point of discussion, Dr Alexandra Tsvetkova spoke about how COVID-19 and digitalisation have shifted regional policy approaches.

Take away message

All speakers agreed on the important shifts brought about by COVID-19 with regard to various issues concerning cities and regions: from commuting patterns and immediate needs for public health interventions to SMEs urgently needing to engage with digital tools and regional policy makers adopting more experimental approaches in order to respond to rapidly changing socio-economic conditions. Although we managed to effectively respond to these challenges, our responses do not alleviate underlying inequalities.


Emmanouil Tranos: If there is something that we can all agree on, it is that the COVID-19 pandemic acted as a digital accelerator.

Dylan Henderson: Will digital technologies continue to be used in the same volume or will we go back to having more face-to-face interactions?

Hannah Budnitz: The widespread telecommuting and other daytime internet usage during the pandemic changed the profile of internet activity.

Mark Green: We are expected to develop interventions with digital proficiency, but we are not quite there yet and indeed this might ignore huge inequalities and potentially disadvantaged communities.

Alexandra Tsvetkova: On a positive note, digitalisation aside, COVID-19 also led to policy experimentation at the regional level... regional policy makers changed their ways in many areas.