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Rapid and mostly disorganized urban growth has brought serious urban challenges for city managers in Latin America: citizen security, mobility, vulnerability to natural disasters and climate change, energy efficiency, water and waste management, citizen participation, broadband connectivity, among others. These challenges cannot be addressed individually; they need to be understood with a holistic mindset and addressed in an integrated and collaborative way.

This becomes even more relevant in light of the current financial constraints that governments–particularly at subnational levels–face in the region. Their systems need to be upgraded in order to reduce public spending and increase tax revenue. In this sense, cities must transition from traditional management models to a Smart City management model.

smart city 4Rio de Janeiro’s Operations Center

In the IDB, we believe that a Smart City is one that places people at the center of development, incorporates Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) into urban management, and uses these elements as tools to stimulate collaborative planning and citizen participation. By promoting integrated and sustainable development, Smart Cities become more innovative, competitive, attractive, and resilient, thus improving lives.”

Since 2011, the IDB has supported cities in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) in their transition to become Smart Cities.To achieve this migration, the IDB develops studies along with strategic partners such as the Korean Research Institute for Human Settlements (KRIHS), Moon Engineering (Korea), Cisco, Microsoft, Everis, IDOM, NEC, among others. Cities like Guadalajara, Mexico and several intermediate cities that participate in the Emerging and Sustainable Cities Program (CES) have benefited from these studies:

  • Brazil: Goiânia, Vitória, João Pessoa, Florianópolis and Palmas
  • Jamaica: Montego Bay
  • Colombia: Barranquilla, Valledupar and Villavicencio
  • Uruguay: Montevideo
  • Chile: Valdivia
  • Bahamas: Nassau

These studies address areas such as citizen security, mobility, emergency response and disaster management, integrated control centers, e-government, education, energy and connectivity, among others.

What are the benefits of becoming a Smart City?

  1. Smart Cities facilitate the integration of systems and processes in public administration, and generate transparent information for better decision making and budget management;
  2. They generate common procedures that improve government efficiency;
  3. They optimize the allocation of resources and help reduce unnecessary spending;
  4. They enable better customer service and improve the image of public
    agencies, thereby raising the level of satisfaction of the population;
  5. They allow greater civil society participation by incorporating technological tools that help monitor public services, inform citizens and interact with the municipality when addressing concrete urban issues;
  6. They produce performance indicators that help measure, benchmark, and improve
    public policy.

Smart city 66 Benefits of Smart Cities. Image taken from the publication “The Road towards Smart Cities” (Inter-American Development Bank, July 2016)

After hosting conversations with mayors, businesses, planners and their teams, we have observed that there is little information in LAC around the notion of what is a smart city, what are its benefits and how to achieve a successful migration to this model in the region. In order to bridge this knowledge gap, a group of IDB and external specialists have development a practical guide titled “The Road towards Smart Cities: Migrating from Traditional City Management to the Smart City.”

This publication contains more than 50 examples of cities that have implemented smart solutions around the world, and recommends a road map for those that seek to adopt this model. The first edition is available in three languages (Spanish, English and Portuguese) and includes examples from  Buenos Aires (Argentina), Bogota and Medellin (Colombia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Chihuahua (Mexico), Madrid and Barcelona (Spain), New York (U.S.A.), Montreal (Canada), Tokyo (Japan), Nassau (Bahamas) among others.

Interested in this publication? Download and read it here.

smart city 5


Mauricio Bouskela is a Senior Specialist in the Competitiveness and Innovation Division in the Inter-American Development Bank. He joined the Bank in 2008 as a specialist in Information and Communication Technology. Mauricio has over twenty five years of successful experience working for high tech companies, including eleven years at Intel Corporation, where he was the Director for Latin America, with responsibility for technology, sales and marketing, strategic alliances and business development. He has a degree in Computer Science from the University of Campinas (Unicamp), has a postgraduate degree in Marketing from Fundação Getúlio Vargas and an MBA in Finance from the Brazilian Institute of Capital Markets (IBMEC).