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Smarter Cities

Smart Cities International: Algerian Wi-Fi, DIY Urbanism, Honduras Hackathon

Here is a preview of our exclusive newsletter to keep up-to-date and stay inspired by Smart City innovations from around the world.

Street scene in Baltimore, Maryland
Street scene in Baltimore, Maryland
Emily Liedel

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Hello City Folk!

While there are many inorganic elements to any city — buildings, roads, geography — cities simply cannot exist without the humans who live there. Each city in the world is made unique by virtue of the different cultures, habits, languages, actions and ideas of its inhabitants. Yet it is also true that citizens often feel constrained and disempowered by the cities they live in, with little say over local regulations that might undermine their well-being or the way that municipal funds are distributed.

Thankfully, more and more mobile applications are being developed as part of smart city initiatives to try and bridge this divide between the city's residents and its government. Of course there are still other ways than using a smartphone for citizens to get some attention! This week, in addition to other smart city news, we’re taking a look at local initiatives by citizens in Russia, Colombia, Germany, U.S. and Honduras that are designed to help residents to not only be seen, but heard, in the places they call home.

— Emily Liedel
During the Global Urban Data Fest at the end of February, 30 cities from around the world participated in a Smart Cities Hackathon to encourage young developers to develop mobile apps that make life easier. One of the participating cities was San Pedro Sula, Honduras, where the winning group presented an app that would allow the city's public transportation to be controlled by using GPS technology, PanamPost reports (Spanish). Not surprisingly, many of the projects the 15 groups worked on had to do with security: San Pedro Sula has the highest murder rate in the world.
“If we are trying to solve the crime problem with technology alone, we are on the wrong path, because technology will only help when all the actors are committed,” said Enrique Topolansky, an Uruguayan entrepreneur who helped judge the Smart City Hackathon in San Pedro Sula.
The famously car-dependent American cities of Los Angeles, Houston and Atlanta have been taking steps to become less so, investing in buses and light rail systems and prioritizing neighborhood walkability. In some cases the plans for alternative transit options have been on the back burners of the local governments for more than 50 years, and some of the projects being built today mirror never-fulfilled plans from the 1960s almost down to the blueprints themselves, City Lab reports.
A joint project by mobile phone carrier Mobilis and the Swedish electronics company Ericsson to bring high-speed mobile internet to Africa launched this week with its first project in Algiers, Algeria. The two companies are working together to install a “City Site,” which is made up of a series of small cells that are autonomous, have multiple functions and work together intelligently to support the city’s wireless network — as well as to support the development of other smart technologies that require high-speed mobile networks, Tekiano reports (French).

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"Splendid" Colonialism? Time To Change How We Talk About Fashion And Culture

A lavish book to celebrate Cartagena, Colombia's most prized travel destination, will perpetuate clichéd views of a city inextricably linked with European exploitation.

Photo of women in traditional clothes at a market in Cartagena, Colombia

At a market iIn Cartagena, Colombia

Vanessa Rosales


BOGOTÁ — The Colombian designer Johanna Ortiz is celebrating the historic port of Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia, in a new book, Cartagena Grace, published by Assouline. The European publisher specializes in luxury art and travel books, or those weighty, costly coffee table books filled with dreamy pictures. If you never opened the book, you could still admire it as a beautiful object in a lobby or on a center table.

Ortiz produced the book in collaboration with Lauren Santo Domingo, an American model (née Davis, in Connecticut) who married into one of Colombia's wealthiest families. Assouline is promoting it as a celebration of the city's "colonial splendor, Caribbean soul and unfaltering pride," while the Bogotá weekly Semana has welcomed an international publisher's focus on one of the country's emblematic cities and tourist spots.

And yet, use of terms like colonial "splendor" is not just inappropriate, but unacceptable.

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