Smart Solutions

Community Coding Programme and Smartphone App

A training programme aimed at community members interested in developing skills in coding and computer programming that delivers a community smartphone app as a result.

Implemented inAlsunga

Country : Latvia

What’s the solution?

The community coding programme is delivered in the form of a training course that focuses on delivering a practical output to meet an identified need within the community. This is in contrast to training programmes which limit themselves either to the theory of computer programming or made-up practical exercises.

Led by a community trainer, local people are able to build their programming skills gradually, all whilst working together to build a real product that will be made freely available to serve the local community.

The solution thus not only builds new digital skills amongst the local community, but also builds cooperation between community members and delivers a usable product at the end.

What makes it smart?

The solution is smart because of

  • Digital app – a new, digital and innovative solution has been created.
  • Business opportunities through cooperation – the developed solution promotes cooperation between local entrepreneurs.
  • Digital skills – local people have developed new skills in computer programming whilst working on the development of the app
  • Local Economy – sales of local small food and handicraft producers have been promoted.

How is the solution implemented?

  1. Identify the presence of local programming knowledge – this solution relies on the contribution of at least one person who is knowledgeable in programming and able to oversee the training and development of an app.
  2. Identify the need - survey the local community, businesses and entrepreneurs on their challenges and needs.
  3. Map interest – explore the interest of local people in developing computer programming skills and using this to develop a community solution.
  4. Conceptualise a potential solution – before starting any programming, set out what the planned product will aim to do and how.
  5. Programming training – set up a regular training course to develop an initial version of the App.
  6. Testing – work with a group of local volunteer users to test and give feedback on the app to enable improvements.
  7. Supporting use - provide support to local users on installing and using the application.

In what local context has it been applied?

Alsunga is a village of around 600 inhabitants (nearly 1300 including the surrounding area) located in the western part of Kurzeme, Latvia. It lies around 11km inland from the coast road that follows the Baltic Sea between two cities of national importance (Liepaja and Ventspils). During the summer season, an important transit route winds through Alsunga taking holidaymakers and tourists from Riga, capital of Latvia, towards the Baltic Sea coast.

The local community is mainly made up of people with old cultural traditions – called suiti. The Suiti Cultural Space was inscribed in the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2009. The local community has long been driven to preserve the local territory and strengthen the identity of the community, especially highlighting local values and strong people of the community.

Since 2018, people of Alsunga – NGOs, entrepreneurs, young people, seniors – have joined together in a Smart Village Initiative Group to implement a cooperation project and to involve citizens in the development of their village.

Following national administrative reforms in 2021, Alsunga has become the outskirts of a big municipality with a town in the centre, and it will no longer be possible for citizens to decide on their own territory and funding.

Who was behind the implementation?

  • A software architect living in the local community
  • Local community – local students, teachers, entrepreneurs
  • Supported by volunteers from the Smart Village Initiative Group from the Alsunga community

What was the local journey?

  • Due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the ban on foreign travel, 2020 saw a marked increase in Latvians choosing to actively travel within the country. This created a large influx of tourists in rural areas.
  • In Alsunga, the local Smart Village Initiative Group identified the need for tourism entrepreneurs to work together more effectively to provide an improved quality service. Given the challenges of the time and the difficulties of bringing someone in to coordinate the sector, the idea to develop a useful mobile application for the tourism sector arose.
  • A local Software IT Architect, member of the Group, offered his programming knowledge. But rather than simply develop the app himself as a volunteer, he proposed to train local stakeholders in programming and to develop the app with them.
  • Programming training was started with a group of 11 interested local people – students, teachers, entrepreneurs and others – who started to work together to create a mobile application to promote cooperation between local tourism entrepreneurs.
  • The developed application was tested by volunteer local entrepreneurs and later improved.
  • Information on the app was spread around the village and its wider use encouraged by volunteers.
  • Volunteers from the group provided user support, helping local business to install and use the application.

What have been the main outputs & results?

  • The training programme resulted in a free mobile application that enables local tourism businesses to source complementary goods and services from each other.Local businesses can mutually direct clients and visitors to each other’s businesses on the principle that ‘if I can't provide a product or service myself, then I would like to cooperate with a neighbour’.
  • The app also encourages the identification of new business opportunities between entrepreneurs providing complementary services – such as residential accommodation and locally produced products or handicrafts - who can potentially join up to offer a new package of goods and services to attract visitors.
  • In addition, a group of 11 local people have learned the basics of programming and are able to continue building their skills in this area and potentially further digital products supporting the community or particular business opportunities.
  • The solution also served to directly involve and interest young people in the activities and future development of the smart and the work of the Smart Village Initiative Group.

What does it bring the village/community?

The training programme can expect to contribute to local development in several ways:

  • Supporting immediate benefits to local businesses through increased business-to-business purchases as well as mutual referrals of tourists and visitors
  • Supporting longer term benefits to local businesses through the potential for new business ideas and tourism offers through cooperation between complementary providers
  • Improving the market for all local tourism providers by making it easier for visitors to identify available goods and services and enhancing the overall tourism offer
  • The solution also builds the digital skills of local people in computer programming and coding, which has the potential to lead to further business and job creation possibilities for local people.
  • By involving and interesting young people in the activities of the village, the solution also increases local engagement in the long-term development of the village.

What’s needed

Financial resources

Main types of cost:
Financial needs:

Set up / Investment costs: EUR 156 to cover:

• Domain name

• Server location

• Storing the Apple application

• Most of the value put into the solution was contributed by volunteers.

Ongoing costs: EUR 160/year to cover:

• Domain name 12,00 EUR/year

• Server location 5,16 EUR/month

• 86 EUR/year for storing the Apple application

Funding received:
Local community160 €Domain name, server and app storage costs.

Human resources

• Community volunteer – Software IT Architect (Programming teacher / specialist with knowledge of backend and frontend programming).

• Programming training participants – program developers.

• Testers (tourism entrepreneurs).

• User support – a person who helps to install the application and advises on its use.

• A person who carries out marketing, informing users and the public about the possibilities of using the application.

Physical resources

• Computers

• Internet connection

• Server space for storing programs and data

What to do…

  • Make use of existing knowledge and skills where possible.
  • Tailor the course and the targeted end product to the availability and interest of the local people.
  • Build the app gradually so that its complexity can develop along with local people’s skills.
  • Implementing a new application in the local community can be a challenge for local people – it is necessary to explain the meaning of the developed application and why it can be useful.

and not to do

  • Do not start programming without knowing how the end product will meet a community need.
  • Do not rush the programming process.
  • Do not expect everyone who starts programming training to be able to complete it.

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