The Smart City Challenge in Latin America
Updated: Mar 28
Smart city maturity
The United Nations has published research on the smart cities of the future, Smart Cities 2025, ranked 136 cities around the world by their level of “smart city maturity” using a range of criteria. It then grouped them into the categories of “beginner”, “transitioning”, and “leader”.
Of the nine cities in Latin America covered by the research, four are classified as for beginners (Bogotá, Greater Belo Horizonte, Mexico City, and Panama City), five are transitioning (Buenos Aires, Lima, Rio de Janeiro, San José, and São Paulo), and none are in the leader category.
Santiago de Chile
Santiago de Chile addressing air contamination and traffic congestion
Despite struggling with the air contamination and traffic congestion, Santiago goes one step ahead of other cities in South America thanks to its stable economy and government transparency.
Support for entrepreneurship (through initiatives such as Startup Chile) has been another key factor to earn Santiago the title of Latin America’s innovation hub.
Santiago had in place, for example, automated pricing for tolls based on traffic levels; smart parking systems; a “Bike Santiago” bike-sharing program; government apps for searching traffic routes, pharmacies, and gas stations; and a range of other technology-based initiatives underway
Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro concentrating on disaster prevention and management
When Rio de Janeiro was chosen to host the 2016 Olympic Games and some of the most important matches of the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the city had to face tremendous challenges to increase the security of its streets and establish a reliable monitoring system to guarantee that unpredictable weather conditions were handled with the proper measures by local authorities. This resulted in Rio’s smart city initiatives being centered on disaster prevention and management, and freedom of information.
Medellin - Colombia
Medellin using smart city strategies for social change
Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín has undergone a miraculous transformation from drug capital to a hub for technology and innovation. From 1991 to 2010, Medellin’s homicide rate plunged nearly 80% thanks to a series of smart strategies oriented to the citizen.
The city built public libraries, parks, and schools in poor hillside neighborhoods and constructed a series of transportation links from there to its commercial and industrial centers.
Medellín’s own smart city program, Ciudad Inteligente, has made it a hub for technology and innovation in Latin America (with more than half of the businesses in the city dedicated to ICT). Ciudad Inteligente has also been used to promote social inclusion, capitalizing on the city’s universal SMS cell phone penetration to advance ICT education and use.
Montevideo - Uruguay
Montevideo short-listed for Smart City Award
During the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona from 13 – 15 November 2018, the Intendencia de Montevideo was nominated for an award in the category Digital Transformation and finished third place.
The award is dedicated to the most innovative and successful projects being implemented and developed in the fields of data and technology.
The Digital Citizen Engagement Program (DCEP) is designed as a collaborative digital transformation process among citizens, academia, civil society, entrepreneurs and businesses. It allows the government and citizens to see and control in real-time Smart City initiatives in Mobility, Water & Wastewater, and Environment areas. It is a human-centric approach for collaborating and co-creating tools with the citizens.