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News Article

The Key question for Smart Cities Development

Wed, 11/15/2017 - 17:03

Population trends reveal that by 2050 most citizens will live in urban areas; such population density makes the development of smart cities challenging. Bertha Ordaz, Partner at Jones Day and moderator of the Technology and Development of Smart Cities Panel at the Mexico Infrastructure and Sustainability Summit 2017, held at the Sheraton Maria Isabel in Mexico City on Tuesday, told the audience that “the idea of this conversation is to understand what a smart city is about and to be able to dimension what are the key aspects of building a city of this nature.”

In this regard, “Oracle’s perspective of a smart city is one that has integrated processes for monitoring and consumption of information. The analysis of this data allows a key and quick response that fastens and optimizes productive, administrative and strategic processes,” said Jorge Gálvez, Director of Consultive Sales for Oracle.

Besides focusing on the nature of a smart city, it is also fundamental to question the very purpose and reason for them. Roberto Martínez, Center Director at OECD in Mexico for América Latina, explained the need to understand and ask ourselves the question of smart cities for what end? His insight is that they must serve “to generate more opportunities for innovation and more resilient cities that can optimize services production through the use of technological tools such as Big Data and the Internet of Things, among others.”

The achievement of this goal carries several challenges. Roberto Calvet, Director General of AECOM, said, “the key challenge is population growth worldwide,” which implies that smart cities face the need to cover a specific social demand. Moreover, “we do not have the 4 P’s: we don’t prioritize, don’t plan, don’t protect, don’t provide,” said Calvet, emphasizing the need to implement this strategy to increase the competitiveness of Mexican cities. “There must be an interaction of all processes, the key is to carry out a well-done strategic plan.”

Intelligent cities are also a very powerful vehicle for social cohesion, which, the panelists agreed, implies that the inequality breach represents a key challenge for smart city development. Addressing this issue, Oracle’s Gálvez asked, “to what extent does technology really serve as a social equalizer?” His company, he said, has several initiatives to foster the development of innovative projects that aim to create more inclusive technologies.

Smart cities also face the challenge of having smart, but efficient infrastructure. “The economy of a city moves at the pace of its transportation network,” Calvet said, stressing the need to understand the importance of transport infrastructure in making cities competitive. “Three things really impact the economy: a country’s entry and exit points, transit networks within cities and transport routes between different cities and states,” all reaffirming the importance of transport, he said.

Concluding the discussion, the panelists addressed a key question from the audience: If it is possible to have a smart city in Mexico, which city would it most likely be? Martínez believes that the ideal would be to have a tabula rasa and to build it from the scratch. Nevertheless, given how challenging that would be, the panelists agreed that Queretaro would be the most likely candidate. But maybe it is not a matter of which city can become smart, as with the required technology almost any city could be; but why do countries need cities to be smart? Calvet pointed out that “there is not going to be one until we really understand the benefits and are willing to implement the required strategic actions. We are very focused on measuring these benefits. I am sure that once they are identified and understood, we will see smart cities flourish,” he said.  Added Gálvez: “The implementation of technology must be a planned endeavor with a holistic vision of what will it lead to.”