Free WiFi areas (in parks) in Tallinn (Estonia)

I. IDENTIFICATION
  • Investor (key institution): City of Tallin
  • Contact person: Väino Olev, IT Director of Tallinn City Office e-mail: Vaino.Olev@tallinnlv.ee
  • Year of implementation: 2005
  • Implementation venue

  • Region: Estonia, Harju County (region)
  • Town: Tallin
  • Size of area: 159 m2
  • Impact: municipal

    Total costs: 300 EUR

    Source per every institution

    • regional: 300 000 EUR

    Important stakeholders concerned

    • regional: City of Tallin
    • other: Elion Enterprises AS
    II. TYPOLOGY
    1. Improved condition & quality of the public space between the blocks of flats.
    2. Improved support for the development of small business operators in the area of blocks of flats.
    III. DESCRIPTION
    1. What forms of cooperation were used as new approaches in the field of rehabilitation and conversion of urban functional areas?
    2. An Estonian wireless Internet expert from WiFi.ee introduced the idea (that the city could offer free internet in parks) to the city government in year 2003. The preparatory work started in 2004 and in year 2005 the first city WiFi areas were opened. WiFi.ee is a non-profit service organization, which promotes the idea of WiFi wireless Internet throughout Estonia. Elion Enterprises AS, winner of the corresponding public procurement, is responsible for the establishment of the WiFi-areas (infrastructure). The main investor and coordinator of improving the urban functional areas is the Tallin City Office.

    3. Was the building or the space between buildings) identified as a valuable socialist heritage?
    4. The project covers all parts of the city without a special focus on socialist heritage. The free Wi-fi project is interesting for ReNewTown partnership as it introduces the idea of free internet to public buildings and spaces on great scale (whole area of the city). The other reason is that it is easily applicable in other cities with socialist heritage.

    5. What criteria were applied to make this judgment?
    6. The main reason for developing free WiFi areas is to provide affordable, fast, universal access to the Internet. Municipal WiFi has many advantages. Businesses can attract more customers and more businesses; employees can be more creative and productive and can be inspired fromy the live city environment. It can make a city a very attractive, sophisticated place which can draw more professionals, entrepreneurs, creative people and many others to the city. This in turn brings rich economic benefits to the city.

    7. Was the building or space between buildings) important to local communities and how were they involved in decision-making process about its rehabilitation or conversion?
    8. Children need high-speed access for their homework, and people need high-speed connections if they want to participate in online learning or training programs. High-speed Internet access also enables people to work from home or start home-based businesses. In sum, free Wi-Fi improves quality of life and economic development opportunities in our neighborhood. There was no detailed information on how the local communities were involved but the initiative comes from enterprises. As a result the project developed from the enterprises to public spaces e.g parks (this is unique in Europe). Most parks in Tallinn have free WiFi access from May to October. This makes the parks more attractive. The City of Tallinn has also set up WiFi areas in libraries, hospitals, city buildings, beaches and in the other public spaces and they are free to use.

    9. Were attempts made to improve territorial cohesion within the city/town/district? And, if so, how was success on this front gauged?
    10. Tallinn has been offering a free WiFi service since the year 2005 and a year-on-year extended service operation. The purpose is to make the Internet accessible to more people in Tallinn and as a result the cohesion within town was improved. In autumn 2009 there were more than 360 WiFi areas covered in Tallinn, of which 45 were offered (free of charge) by the city. Those 45 areas were for year-round use. In addition, during the summer the city offers WiFi areas in parks, squares, beaches and other public places (in 2009 – there was 19 summer WiFi-areas).

    11. Were there attempts to reduced disparities between districts within cities/towns achieved reduced? And, if so, how was success on this front gauged?
    12. WiFi is becoming the rule, not the exception, in the Estonian capital. Most of parks (May-October) and of the Old Town of the Tallinn is covered by WiFi. Therefore in terms of the access to Internet Tallin municipality reached high level of cohesion. Thanks to this project the disparities within different districts within city were significantly diminished. Tallinn is among the top ten in the world by WiFi access - Discovery Channel’s technology service chose Tallinn among the top ten cities in the world by WiFi access in June 2008. Free internet is partly provided by the city and is everywhere - in parks, pubs and hotels etc. And more importantly, the hotspots are clearly marked with orange and black signs and stickers.

    13. Other important facts and comments, e.g. critical review.
    14. The city of Tallinn spends about 60 000 EUR per year for the free WiFi. Responsible for the technical side is Elion Enterprises, which won the tender for procurement for 4 years. Year after year, the city has expanded the areas of the free WiFi. The current number of free WiFi areas offered by city of Tallinn is 64. The Internet Task Force (formed in 2006) has proposed a number of ideas, which the city could deal with. For example: to install WiFi in local and school buses, to allow internet access to poorer residents, to open a free wireless Internet access to patients in hospitals, to expand wireless Internet coverage in the schools, to expand WiFi-summer areas etc. Some of the ideas have been carried out, but not all (due, in particular, to the lack of funding).

    IV. SUPPLEMENT

    Web site: www.ccaa.nl/page/48339/nl