(This article is contributed by the Inter-American Development Bank, CCUD long-term partner.)
Smart Cities in Latin American and the Caribbean
Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) region is the second most populous in the world, with 80 percent of its population living in urban areas, which is only after North America, where 82 percent of the population is already living in cities. This urbanization phenomenon has accelerated in the second half of the twentieth century; in 1950, only 42 percent of the region’s population lived in cities. In 2050, it is forecasted that 90% of the LAC population will be concentrated in urban areas.
The cities of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are the protagonists of one of the most significant processes of population growth ever experienced in the planet, with major implications for the sustainability, quality of life, and competitiveness of the region. The rapid anddisorganizedurbanization ofLAC countriesputs pressure onimportant issuessuch as urbanmobility, basicsanitation, drinkingwater supply, airpollution, response todisasters, safety andsecurity, health,and education. Therefore, transforming “traditional cities” into Smart Cities is an increasingly important demand, in addition to an opportunity for governments and citizens in LAC.
In general, a smart and sustainable city is an innovative city that usesInformation and CommunicationTechnologies (ICT) and other means toimprove quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services, and competitiveness,while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and futuregenerations with respect to economic, social, and environmental aspects.In addition, it is attractive to citizens, entrepreneurs, and workers, and generatesa safer space with better services and an innovative environment thatencourages creative solutions, thus creating jobs and reducing inequality.As a result, it promotes a virtuous cycle that not only produces economicand social well-being, but also secures the sustainable use of its resources inorder to ensure quality of life in the long run.
A Smart City places people at the center of development, incorporates Information and Communication Technologies into urban management, and uses these elements as tools to stimulate the design of an effective government that includes collaborative planning and citizen participation. By promoting integrated and sustainable development, Smart Cities become more innovative, competitive, attractive, and resilient, thus improving lives.
People play a very important role as beneficiaries of and participants in citytransformations. Therefore, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) conceptualizes a Smart City in much broader terms, referring to those cities that put human beings at the center of development and planning, ensuring a sustainable and long-term vision for Smart Cities.The Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) is a programfrom the IDB that started in 2011 andfocused on supporting medium-sized cities in LAC in order to address theirsustainability challenges in the short, medium, and long run. ESCI operatesin cities with populations between 100,000 and two million, which haveexperienced economic and demographic growth above their countries’average. The methodology is based on three dimensions of sustainability– environmental, urban, and fiscal/governance – and seeks to provide anintegrated and comprehensive development strategy. The application of the ESCI methodology has been in more than 60 cities in the region.
In Summary, a Smart City:
In several regions of the world it is possible to identify pioneering cities that have adopted the concept of Smart Cities. They are references to good practices for more efficient management. In the following pages, we detail several cases in LACand around the world to show how each of them used innovative technologies to solve specific problems of public administration.
A. Toward citizen security
CHALLENGES: According to the 2015 edition of the annual study conducted by the NGO “ConsejoCiudadano para la SeguridadPública y Justicia Penal”(Citizen Council for Public Security and Penal Justice), of the 50 most violent cities in the world, 42 are in LAC. The average homicide rate in the region is 25 deaths per 100,000 people, or three times the world average. The costs of violence and insecurity are extremely high. In Uruguay, for example, they represent as much as 3.1 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product. Emerging and Sustainable Cities Initiative (ESCI) studies confirm the urgency and scope of the problem. In public opinion polls carried out during the diagnostic phase of the methodology, public safety appears consistently as a top priority, even when sociodemographic variables such as gender, age, and income are accounted for. We can understand, therefore, that security is an urgent matter for all.
SOLUTIONS: Public safety requires coordination of various agencies to monitor and act in public areas while respecting the rights of citizens. Using cameras and sensors, 24/7 electronic monitoring systems improve the effectiveness of service provision with smaller teams. The analysis of the data generated helps to build more effective security and violence prevention programs for the various areas of the city. It also enables responding to emergencies and city security incidents in a comprehensive and organized fashion, by determining and coordinating the entity that should be involved according to the event and seeking support from other organizations and companies with expertise when needed.
EXAMPLES: Cities like Buenos Aires, Medellin, Niteroi of the region, and even New York have implemented solutions according to the operational capacity of their respective administrations, all based on the systematic monitoring of public spaces.
B. Sustainableurban mobility
CHALLENGES: Mobility is another major challenge for cities in LAC. In2010, there were 60 million cars in the region, and by 2025 another 80 millionvehicles are expected to be added to this fleet. These vehicles travel the roadsand contribute to increased congestion, serious accidents, and the emissionof pollutants and greenhouse gases. In a large city in the region, the averagedaily commute is 3 to 4 hours. In the Action Plans developed during theimplementation of ESCI in cities of the region, mobility was the most commontopic, having been raised in more than 30 cities.
SOLUTIONS: Controlling and organizing traffic and reducing accidents in thecity by investing in traffic monitoring and management systems are commongoals to many Smart Cities. Results to be achieved include the use of speedradars and the adaptive and real-time programming of traffic lights, takinginto consideration, among other factors, the concentration and flow of vehicles(allowing priority to ambulances, police cars, and dedicated bus lanes), theconcentration of pedestrians, and the speed of vehicles. Another commonconcern is the provision of more efficient public transportation systems, suitablefor urban development and social equity in relation to commutes. Many ofthe solutions are intended to prepare the city for the future implementationof a multimodal transportation system, involving different means (bicycle,subway, dedicated bus lanes, light rail vehicles), thus helping to reduce fuelconsumption, gas emissions, and commute times, as well as improve air quality.
EXAMPLES: Bogota and Medellin began to solve the urban mobility problemby implementing effective public transportation solutions.
C. For smart water management
CHALLENGES: For decades, environmentalists have warned that fresh water is a scarce resource on the planet. Meeting global water supply is one of the biggest technical and human challenges of this century. More than 1 billion people living in cities will probably live on less than 100 liters per day – the UN limit for a healthy life - and more than 3 billion will have no water for a month each year, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
SOLUTIONS: Possible measures include investment in reuse technologies that assist in the creation of incentive policies on the responsible use of water. Another important problem is the waste resulting from leaks in pipelines, networks, branches, connections, reservoirs, and other operating units in supply systems. These leaks occur mainly in distribution network pipes and are caused especially by excessive pressure in regions with great relief variation. One solution is to manage leaks and losses by using sensors of water level, quality, flow, pipe pressure, etc.
EXAMPLES: Some cities have become role models in water management byusing available technology wisely.Among them include Nassau, Bahamas.
D. Keeping an eye on proper waste disposal
CHALLENGES: Proper urban waste management is another issue of growing concern to public officials, with direct impacts on health, the environment, and people’s quality of life. Cities are strong emitters of methane (CH4), which has a global warming potential 21 times greater than that of CO2. According to a UN study, the current waste generated in the world is around 1.3 billion tons/year, with an estimated 2.2 billion tons/year by 2025. The financial and environmental costs to manage such a significant amount of waste are enormous. The same UN study estimates that up to 50 percent of municipal budgets are spent on urban waste collection and disposal.
SOLUTIONS: To date – and this is a common problem in many cities in LAC – solid waste has been managed in an uncoordinated manner. Technology helps to have a systemic view of the process, from prevention during the generation phase to reuse, including collection, transportation, and the most appropriate treatment for each type of waste. Among the most commonly used solutions are: underground reservoirs with fill-levelsensors that warn when the limit is about to be reached, so that waste can be removed; selective collection; recycling; replacement of dump yards by landfills and incineration plants that promote drainage; treatment of manure (liquid resulting from the decomposition of organic waste); and conversion of wet waste and methane to energy (gas).
EXAMPLES: The city of Itu (state of Sao Paulo, Brazil) has begun to address the issue of waste disposal management in an integrated manner in order to reuse it as much aspossible, and dumping the minimum amount possible in landfills.