The nature of the cities has changed at a rapid pace since the beginning of the discussion of the term “city” itself and the development of urban conurbations all around the world. There has been a paradigm shift in the characterizations of cities, form the “industrial city”, the “city of services”, the “green city” (like Vitoria-Gasteiz, winner of the European Green Capital in 2012) to the “creative city” and more recently, the “smart city” as the new paradigm of the modern cities ( Greco and Bencardino, 2014).
Although there isn’t a clear consensus on what are exactly the characteristics of a smart city, one of the common components is a better use and integration of information and communication technology (ICT) and its relation to the governance (a “smart governance”) and the people (in the sense that it goes beyond the normal use of ICTs by the public and includes their roles as citizens). Boyd Cohen, an urban strategist, developed a methodology he called “the Smart Cities Wheel” to benchmark the modern cities in terms of their “smartness”. This evaluation is based on six dimensions: Environment, Mobility, Government, Economy, People and Living, all indispensable components of a modern city.
Smartest cities in Latin America
Cohen, writing for the Fast Company Magazine, looks at the Latin American region because, even though they are developing countries, the cities in these countries are on a clear journey towards being smarter. Using his Smart Cities Wheel methodology, Cohen lists the top 8 smart cities of Latin America: in the first place, Santiago de Chile, Chile; second place, Mexico City, México; followed by Bogotá, Colombia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Rio de Janeiro and Curitiba, respectably, in Brazil; Medellín, Colombia; and Montevideo, Uruguay. From this list, is possible to see that almost all modern cities need to be smart in some way, besides their context or history, but the goal is to make them smarter. Three of these cities also show up in the list of Latin American Cities with the best quality of life according to the consultancy firm Mercer.
It may be too early to determine a link between the quality of life in modern cities and their “smartness”, but one of the things that the modern cities of Latin America show is that cities adapt, grow and assimilate every aspect they find useful for keeping up with the dynamic of the world, regardless of the problems they have in comparison with more developed countries. In any case, no matter the current urban development of our cities, we, as citizens or public servers, should be striving towards becoming a smarter city every day because it will have an important impact on the lives of everyone in that city because a smart city isn’t just the integration of ICTs in its infrastructure, but about the si dimensions that Cohen mentions: the environment, mobility, government, economy, the quality of life in our city and, more importantly, the people.
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