Who can access the portal? Can Brno iD be used also by those living outside of Brno?
The portal is automatically open to anyone. Because the data are stored on a payment card, it is open to users worldwide. Anyone who has a contactless card can use the system. We have a direct variant, which functions in public transport, where you get on, tap the card and the transaction is recorded. These are one-off tickets intended mainly for tourists and visitors. Then there are prepaid passes, which are provided by the Brno iD e-shop: you open an account, fill in your data a purchase a transport pass. Your identity can be verified online – a novelty introduced during the pandemic. You take a photo of your identity card, send it out and everything is ready in about two days. No need to go anywhere.
You mentioned that the portal was not limited to ticket sales. What are the other things?
If you take the ZOO, for instance, besides tickets and passes, you can also adopt an animal online. In the Library module, you can establish a library account and then use services like a renewal of reader’s registration, credit top-up, payment of penalties. Then there is the Tourist Card, offered for one to three days. It includes discounts or free admission to various institutions. The public transport is activated automatically. Other modules enable the purchase of tickets to various city sports grounds, parking fees, payment for waste collection, and so on. One of the services that never occurred to me we could do is municipal cemeteries. It was the city’s idea and it has turned out the service is feasible. People can renew the lease of the grave or choose and pay online for gardening services needed for grave maintenance, without the necessity to come to Brno.
That’s part of life, too. What about theatre tickets? Do you have any plans in this area?
The first cultural institution will be the Brno Observatory. Theatres should join the party afterwards. However, because theatres already have their own systems, we will be asked to design an alternative. The process will happen step by step due to the number of theatres. The plan is to start with smaller theatres and proceed to larger ones. You need to move from simple things to complex ones.
Do other cities have something like Brno iD? I don’t mean just the Czech Republic.
No. A similar accomplishment was only attempted by Plzeň. Most of the transport e-shops are run by the public transport authority of the city concerned. Adding further services faces legal as well as technical problems, if not planned well ahead. Nothing like this exists in Slovakia and I don’t think Vienna has considered such a system. On the other hand, we found it interesting to have an outcome of what was once called Smart City. It lives on the ideas of the MUNISS project, an example of cooperation between the academic and public sectors, which has developed into this quite unique shape. We have managed to computerize even those service modules that weren’t feasible in the past. You can see, for instance, how the number of ZOO tickets bought online has been increasing. The scope of the whole project has long overgrown public transport.
Why wasn’t there an e-shop for certain services? Especially libraries come to mind.
Jiří Mahen Library tried to introduce an e-shop; however, this is not possible independently, because due to its turnover and amounts paid, it is not interesting for payment gateways. Therefore, it is ideal for the library to be connected to Brno iD, with a bonus of shared low commissions. Most of the payments in the e-shop do not exceed half a percent. It is a great benefit for smaller entities because they all share one gateway with the turnover of hundreds of millions Czech crowns a year.
Brno iD is clearly an amazing and successful project. Has it been noted abroad?
Yes, it has. For Brno iD, the City of Brno won the ITAPA V4 Award, which is awarded to the best Smart City projects and innovative services for citizens and businesses in the Visegrad Four countries.
Jan Žák was interviewed by Aleš Kohout.