SMART CITY BRANDING: SMART medellin THROUGH Federico Gutiérrez Zuluaga’S EYES

MEDELLIN, 7, JANUARY 2017- 18.00 CEST

Mr. FEDERICO GUTIERREZ ZULUAGA is the current mayor of Medellín since January 2016. He studied civil engineering and senior management at the University of Medellín and political science at the Pontifical Bolivarian University.
IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT MIGHT MEDELLIN’S MANTRA BE, IN FEW WORDS?

The highlight of Medellín is its transformation. We feel proud for having moved from being the most violent city in the world in 1991 to become a benchmark for innovation and inclusive growth. Although we know that we have come a long way, we understand that there is much to be done.

The transformation that fills us with pride was possible thanks to the joint work and commitment of the different sectors of our society, who empowered themselves to transform their realities. In that sense, the mantra of Medellín could be something like “together we go further.”

WHAT ARE THE INTANGIBLE ASSETS OF SMART MEDELLIN?

One of our most ambitious goals as a city is to transform our economy in a period of 10 years to move from a traditional economy to a knowledge economy through the ICT Plan 2011-2021.The idea is to articulate the different sectors of our society and turning Medellín into a highly innovative and sustainable city. The facilitation of a data-driven economy is necessary to achieve it.

In recent years, Medellín has consolidated skills in different fields. I note, for instance, the creation of some co-creation communities such as MiMedellín and Cities for Life, in which solutions to city problematics are posed by interacting with other citizens of Medellín and the world. In addition, working hand in hand with the private sector, we have managed to put innovation on the agenda of the city. We signed the pact for innovation, with which we intend to invest 2.45% of GDP into science, technology and innovation in 2019; and 3% in 2021.

Finally, I think the most important thing is that we managed to connect citizens with the institutions through technology. People in Medellín think about what they want and dream for their city, and propose solutions. When we formulated our development plan, we did with the people, citizens meetings, but also through virtual platforms and I think that is the real innovation: to achieve real impacts that improve the lives of people.

WHAT IS SMART MEDELLIN GREATEST STRENGTH?

I repeat: the ability to articulate. The quadruple helix model (universities, business, state and citizens) is a key element, or the most important, when considering the progress of Medellín in innovation. The challenges of this city, which have been many, have been solved thanks to teamwork. The challenges of Medellín Smart City are no exception.

CAN YOU BE A SMART CITY WITHOUT A LONG TERM AND PUBLIC SMART CITY PLAN? 

From my point of view, no. The role of the state is essential because it is the sector with the power, largely, of thinking the city to future and plan it. And smart cities will consolidate only if they are sustainable over time. In addition, the public sector is the initial enabler of information and, somehow, it has the ability to encourage the private sector and citizens to share and use the data to develop solutions.

HOW DOES SMART MEDELLIN CONNECT CULTURE WITH TECHNOLOGY AND CITIZENS?

The first thing to say is that Medellín understands innovation as the ability to use tools in an unconventional way to improve the quality of life of its inhabitants. We connect citizens with culture and technology, giving it a leading and active role in the construction of the city.

Thus, one of the main focuses of Medellín has been to integrate the citizen with the government in solving the challenges of city. Technology has played a key role since public and private open-data strategies, co-creation and public services platforms and access free internet hotspots throughout the city (198 and a target of 100) are being created through the Medellín Smart City program.

This has to be a long-term commitment: we keep moving forward on the road of transforming Medellín, using all possible tools.

HOW CAN BE A “SMART DAY” (FROM MORNING TO EVENING) FOR A “SMART CITIZEN” IN MEDELLIN?

The lives of our citizens are very different. What happens in the city center is different from what happens in the north and in the south. But for practical purposes of the exercise, and framing it clearly in its “smart relationship” with the city, we could affirm something like this: the citizen wakes up, goes online and can sees how is the mobility, the climate, etc., thanks to the open data.

When he leaves home, he can also access the interactive information screens on the entire city. If he sees things that are not working, he can communicate, via social networks, with the team of the mayor or by logging in MiMedellín and proposing solutions. This team is always there to serve the people .If he does not have mobile internet, he can connect to free Wi-Fi hotspots around the city. In case he thinks of a business idea, he can enter the data portal of Finance and get to know more on the best places to materialize his idea, and so on.

The most important thing is that they always have the possibility to connect to deal with their own affairs and contribute to the construction of the city.

HOW SMART MEDELLIN IS CONNECTING THE INTERNAL SILOS?

We have a strategy called Government Laboratory (Laboratorio de Gobierno), where initially we are opening the data for each secretariat, so that between them they can know in real time what each of them is doing. In turn, we are developing an innovative procurement process that allow them to make alliances between them, creating integrated and modular solutions. In addition, there is a think tank that calls for participation in the development of different problems of the city from different points of view. Finally, there is a leader per challenge, called the curator, who is responsible for working with all and integrate their perspectives.

WHAT ARE THE SMARTER PROJECTS OF SMART MEDELLIN?

Government Laboratory, MiMedellín, Cities for Life, open data, Medellín Digital and Comuna innovates.

IN YOUR OPINION, ARE THERE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SMART CITIES TAKING INTO ACCOUNT DIFFERENT POLITICAL IDEOLOGIES?

I think that what makes the difference are not, at least not primarily the political ideologies. There are different types of smart cities because each culture, each region, each country has its own ways to make technology available to its citizens and in favor of them.

The concept of “smart city” is metaphorical of course. However, it is used because intelligence – a human characteristic – can be extrapolated to cities when they:
1) have a high probability of survival, i.e. are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
2) Can generate welfare to its inhabitants, that is, provide them with better quality of life conditions.
3) They reproduce; this means that thrive, grow, attract talent and capital, and connect among them.

When we talk about a smart city, having advanced ICT provision is not enough. It is necessary that citizens have the necessary tools to take advantage of information. So, if data are opened, the necessary skills are created, culture is created and technology for the development of city problems is integrated. Then we can speak of a smart city, regardless its forms.

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