Povilas Poderskis is a former IT developer and currently the CEO of Vilnius City – one of the fastest evolving and cities in the region. With its growing population and young citizens there are many new demands for the infrastructure and city management procedures. Poderskis told us a little bit about what does Vilnius have in store for the future.
You have a professional background in IT. Which skills and experiences from IT can you use in your work in the municipality?
While I was working in IT, I specialised mainly on IT project management and software development, I was usually working with either governmental or financial institutions. So I know a lot of the processes both in finances and the public sector from inside out, because I programmed them and created algorithms. It has been very useful for me from the technical and the system management perspective. Knowing all this allows me to get a better structured view of how a municipality or a government works and how to create a more structured change throughout the system and throughout the companies that we manage. We are now trying to look at the municipality as a holding company. We have a lot of municipal agencies, institutions and facilities. For example, a road construction company, public transportation and so on.
You have made some great progress with implementing new IT solutions in Vilnius City Municipality. What do you consider the most useful IT solutions that have been implemented in Vilnius lately?
Actually, a lot of value can come from implementing really simple things. One thing we have done is the financial management system in the municipality and the document management system, which allows us to control things better and do things faster. But lately we have used a lot of tools like Facebook Workplace to improve internal communication, so that more people would know about the things that are going on in the city. Throughout the company group we have a total of 30 000 employees counting all the workers, teachers and all of the employees of all of the companies – that is a huge pool of people. If you disseminate the information to them, you can get feedback, good insights or just a better sense of understanding how everything is working and what doesn’t work. So from the last period, Facebook Workplace has been the most impactful solution I guess.
Also, we’re just now consolidating all the work plans of all the companies into one database. For example, the city has plans and contractors to do repair work or build new bicycle paths, roads or sidewalks and now we are involving the heating company who also has plans to renovate their network that lies under those infrastructural objects. With the help of this database a lot of synergy can be found when planning construction works. Some time ago, there were just stupid things happening. We built a new bicycle path and just a week after that the water company came in and destroyed part of the path because they needed to renovate their network there. They did reconstruct the road back to its initial shape but if they did the works two weeks earlier, there would have been no need to recreate the road and they would’ve saved money. The database helps us to look at the municipality in a more holistic way and interconnection of data is really helping us grow.
Has there been any resistance for IT innovation?
Knowing that any innovation or IT system implementation is followed by some resistance helps us prepare for that. My philosophy is that we need to show people how the IT solutions can help us to help them. IT systems and digitalisation as such can allow us to help them save time so they can do more work, or instead, do some other more creative work and we do encourage that. We try to mitigate the resistance but ofcourse things happen and a lot of people are still unhappy because they don’t like the system or they feel uncomfortable “being watched” in a digital fashion. Some people are telling us that we’re spending too much or are just confronting us by telling that they are not willing to use the system for some reason.
Do you feel that the demands of Vilnius City citizens for new infrastructure have changed in the last years? How?
I think we’ve managed to do a lot of repair work in the city which allows us to remove some things from the public conversation. We did a lot of street renovation work – this was a public topic few years ago but is not anymore now.
We are now in a situation where we can build quite good homes and quite good offices and we have expectations that somehow the public infrastructure has caught up with it. But when we go to the hospital, to the kindergarten or to the school, the infrastructure is outdated and we are not able to fix things quite as fast. And that is something that’s been bothering us for a few years now.
For example, there are some schools that have been recently built and those schools are in high demand. Having schools that are more prestigious than others means that they create a lot of traffic. People from all around the city drive to those schools and this creates discomfort for the parents and strains the road infrastructure. So what we’ve seen is that the answer to traffic problems lies in school renovation and we want to catch up, this means that we are not willing to renovate schools like we did up until now. We need to pull the resources that we’re going to spend for the next 20 years and to expand this all over the school network. This will create a basic level of schools that will be in a good shape.
In more general terms, we are now writing our new masterplan that will set the direction for the city for the next 30 years in terms of general development and infrastructure. We’re planning to build at least 5 new streets within the city limit. That will connect some of the areas and make the network much more stable.
Do you have a dream or a vision about what future municipality CEOs would be like?
I think that the future CEOs of the municipalities will care about how to make the services that are delivered to the citizens much faster and much better quality. They will not be interested in political quarrels or battles and they will do a lot more data driven decisions. And a lot of good infrastructure projects and good services will be created so that the citizens would have a good quality of life.