Smart cities are among our best bets for a livable and prosperous future. By leveraging technology to solve problems, smart cities can improve the quality of life for residents, promote sustainability, increase efficiency, enable better decision-making, create new opportunities, and foster economic growth.
Hence, it’s no surprise that smart cities have rapidly spread worldwide. In terms of revenue, the global smart cities market was valued at USD 511.6 billion in 2022 and is set to reach USD 1024.4 billion by 2027, growing at a CAGR of 14.9 percent in just five years. While smart cities in the Western world have been under the spotlight, it’s not just the advanced economies driving this growth.
In Latin America, where the urbanization process has been one of the most rapid and extensive in history, 81 percent of the population lived in cities and urban areas as of 2021. Such a quick transformation can bring a dizzying number of challenges. Nevertheless, thanks to rising technology adaptation, investment, and government initiatives, a rising number of cities in Latin America are turning to technology to help address a wide range of challenges and improve the quality of life for their citizens — such as the five leading cities below.
Each city has its unique challenges and opportunities, and the solutions implemented by them reflect this diversity.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
In 2021, the Argentinian capital, with a 15.4 million metropolitan population, was crowned the title of the “smartest city in the world”. This achievement was thanks to the transformations that have been taking place since 2012, particularly the integrated waste plan, which managed to reduce the amount of solid waste thrown indiscriminately into dumpsters by half in its first year, and by 100 percent in 2020.
In addition, Buenos Aires has implemented other tech-powered solutions to improve the quality of life for residents, including a bike-sharing program, a public Wi-Fi network, and a real-time transportation information system. The city has also invested in smart technologies to improve public safety, including a network of security cameras and a mobile app that allows residents to report crimes.
Mexico City, Mexico
With a metropolitan population of over 22 million, Mexico City is one of the largest in the world. The cosmopolitan capital of Mexico faces many challenges, including air pollution, traffic congestion, and crime.
To counter these issues, the city has implemented several smart initiatives, including a bike-sharing program, a real-time traffic management system, and an intelligent lighting system that saves energy and reduces light pollution.
Once known as the “world’s murder capital” due to drug trafficking that had a devastating impact on the local communities for decades, Medellin is now a poster child of positive urban transformation.
The Colombian city of about 4.5 million residents has evolved from a settlement associated with crime and violence to one that is innovative and forward-thinking.
The city now boasts impressive high-tech initiatives, including a cable car network that connects neighborhoods in the hills to the city center, a smart mobility system that integrates public transportation options, and public Wi-Fi that covers many areas of the city.
Launched in 2015, the “Santiago Ciudad Inteligente” (Smart City Santiago) program has brought public and private resources together to tap into technology for sustainable development.
The Chilean capital of 5.8 million is known for its high-quality public transportation system, which includes buses, trains, and a metro network. Santiago has introduced further projects to make transportation more efficient and sustainable, including a real-time transportation information system, a bike-sharing program, and a program to encourage the use of electric vehicles.
Curitiba, the capital of the Southern Brazilian state of Parana with a population of 4.1 million, is a pioneer in sustainable urban planning. Jaime Lerner, who is an architect and acted as the city’s mayor for three terms, transformed Curitiba into an environmentally-friendly laboratory of urban innovation.
The city, now known as the “green capital of Brazil” has developed a reputation for its low-carbon initiatives, including a bus rapid transit system, a network of bike paths and parks, and a waste management system that encourages recycling and composting.
Curitiba currently aims to become carbon-neutral by 2050.