Transforming Mexico's urban centres into tech-savvy environments

Several initiatives are under way to transform Mexico’s major metropolitan areas into so-called smart cities, combining technology and government policy to create better economies, a cleaner environment and to improve mobility and governance in order to enhance the quality of life of their inhabitants. Among the benefits are greater efficiency and reduced paperwork, as well as increased transparency in public administration. These changes will facilitate a better connection between citizens and the state, and in turn foster public engagement and participation, while lowering operational costs for governments, potentially leading to lower fees for administrative procedures.

Projects

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a New York-based association, devises programmes to create smart cities, and is undertaking work in 10 Mexican municipalities to that end. The first of these is Guadalajara, where an initiative to transform the city into an IEEE-affiliated smart city began in 2014.

The city has since launched a project called Ciudad Creativa Digital to drive that transformation. “In addition to revitalising Guadalajara, the project is serving as a test bed to develop best practices and a pool of talent that can be used in cities throughout Mexico,” according to the article “Smart City, Smart Future: Guadalajara, Mexico” by Victor Larios, volunteer leader of the IEEE Smart Cities Initiative Guadalajara Pilot. The project aims to integrate innovators interested in working in a range of digital media industries in Guadalajara’s urban environment, with the creation of a hub on 99 acres of land that could eventually be expanded to 940 acres.

Other cities in Mexico have since followed suit, devising plans to make them more liveable with the help of technology and the private sector. In 2016 Mexico City’s Ministry of Economic Development teamed up with the World Bank and the National Autonomous University of Mexico to develop a connectivity master plan aimed at harnessing public and private investment and taking advantage of existing infrastructure to build synergies to create a smart city. The plan included the analysis of government structure and an identification of connectivity needs and demands, and a proposal to redesign the city’s broadcasting network.

Mérida, capital of the Yucatán Peninsula, is also transforming into a smart city. The city government signed an agreement in November 2017 with IT firms Ikusi from Spain and Cisco from the US, which will contribute a combined MXN8.4m ($454,000) to the project. In Mexico’s south-east, AT&T plans to turn Playa del Carmen into a smart city, using its LTE-M network – a variant of LTE adapted to support internet-of-things devices – to provide free Wi-Fi, as well as traffic control and air quality monitoring technology, among other services.

Agency Support

In 2007 the government of Mexico City created PROCDMX, an agency to promote investment in the city and its sustainable development. “The body aims to gradually transform the city into a space where technology brings more information to citizens,” Simón Levy Dabbah, director-general of PROCDMX, told OBG. “In addition, it hopes to generate urban development models in which, through human development, we can harness the potential of economic vocations, culture and creativity to generate human capital.”

The initiative is being aided by the private sector, with several firms engaged in enhancing their connectivity services, such as local firm C3ntro Telecom, which launched a fibre-network loop in the city in October 2017. The loop will offer direct access to all major cloud providers such as Microsoft Azure, Oracle and SAP to create an integral communications service.

In addition to traffic control and customer and business connectivity, technology can assist Mexico City in dealing with several local problems, such as street crime, by enabling the police to monitor public activity. It also has the potential to reduce pollution through the monitoring of air quality and to improve earthquake alarm systems and disaster relief deployment, all of which could save lives within a highly populated city.

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The Report: Mexico 2018

ICT chapter from The Report: Mexico 2018

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