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NEWS ARTICLE | 19 August 2020

WiFi4EU stories: an interview with Mayor of Strängnäs, Sweden

The Swedish municipality of Strängnäs is a proud winner of a EUR 15,000 WiFi4EU voucher, which allowed the Local Council to offer free connectivity in low bandwidth areas.

WiFi4EU stories: Strängnäs, Sweden
European Commission - WiFi4EU stories: Strängnäs, Sweden

Strängnäs is a dynamic Swedish town located by Lake Mälaren, not far from Stockholm. The municipality, dotted with castles and charming views, dates back to the Viking Age but it is now looking ahead with its innovative digital policies and commitment to provide connectivity to all citizens.

Eager to discover more about how the WiFi4EU initiative complements Strängnäs’ digital strategy, the WiFi4EU team spoke with Mayor Jacob Högfeldt and Göran Hedström, responsible for all initiatives related to broadband and Wi-Fi.

When asked why the municipality has decided to apply for a voucher, Mayor Högfeldt had no doubt: “The issue of public Wi-Fi had previously been discussed in the City Council”, he explained, “our vision is that everyone in Strängnäs municipality should have access to good broadband so that they are never prevented from using various forms of digital services. Public Wi-Fi is one of many steps to achieve this”.

Strängnäs has been granted a EUR 15,000 WiFi4EU voucher during the second call, in April 2019, and the WiFi4EU network was officially launched on 1 April 2020. The 23 WiFi4EU hotspots are located in sports facilities, libraries, squares and skate parks, where they can best serve the needs of locals and visitors. “Our sports facilities lacked Wi-Fi and in many of them the mobile coverage was poor […] so we thought we could offer good wireless broadband in places where it is needed”, said Hedström.

With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, remote working and studying have become the norm in Strängnäs and around the world. This new setting for professionals and students has shed light on the importance of free Wi-Fi to allow everyone to work and stay connected with colleagues, friends and family. The Local Council of Strängnäs is committed to ensure free access to connectivity in the municipality premises. According to Hedström, “it is important that everyone has the opportunity to access the internet for free from public places where the municipality has services, regardless of whether it is a library, a bathhouse or a sports hall”.

Free public Wi-Fi is just one of the numerous initiatives promoted by the municipality as part of the digital strategy. “Strängnäs has a number of innovative investments in digitalisation, some are internal and others require that both individuals and entrepreneurs have a good broadband connection they can trust”, explained the Mayor. When drafting new policies and applying to initiatives such as WiFi4EU, both Högfeldt and Hedström have one goal in mind: “bridging the digital divisions that exist as a result of geographical and socio-demographic differences is important for the future”.