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Smart Cities International: Vienna parking, Siberian PR, Spanish crosswalks

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In Barcelona, Spain
In Barcelona, Spain
Emily Liedel

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Hello City Folk!

Cities in developed countries are no doubt more likely to use state-of-the-art technologies, to adopt cutting-edge urban planning theories and to be seen as "world leaders" in the field of smart cities. But ignoring developing countries is a mistake, for many reasons: Many of them have robust public transportation systems that work remarkably well, precisely because most residents can’t afford a private vehicle. Early adoption of new theories or technologies is only an advantage if they can be applied, and turn out to genuinely improve peoples’ lives. In the case of urban planning, that has certainly not always been the case. Cities that missed the wave of urban development in the 1960s and 1970s that destroyed neighborhoods with freeway overpasses — perhaps because there was no money to build said freeway overpasses — are now having the last laugh.

This week, in addition to other smart city news, we check in with a Senegalese news site that thinks developing countries have an advantage in implementing high-tech solutions. We’ll also see how Tunisia is managing its water, how Spanish pedestrians are staying safe and how Siberian cities are working on their image.

— Emily Liedel
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A new project in Tunis will allow the municipal water agency to monitor water quality using remote monitoring, checking all of the city’s water in real time instead of requiring technicians to travel around the city and take samples, reports La Presse (French). This means that if there is a problem, the authorities will be able to react immediately. A spokesperson stressed, however, that the water in Tunis is perfectly safe to drink now.
“A city’s image isn’t always built exclusively on positive events. Sometimes difficulties and negative tendencies can attract investment as well. For example, if a city has bad roads but the people are fixing them, that can be a factor that attracts investment,” Aleksandr Lyuklo, head of the innovation and business department at the mayor’s office in Novosibirsk, said in the run-up to a conference on image and branding for Siberian cities that took place last week in Novosibirsk, Mail.u reports (Russian).
As developing countries tend to urbanize more rapidly than developed countries, the challenges facing their cities are particularly acute. But the lack of established infrastructure can also be an advantage, the Senegalese news site SeneNews argues, since developing countries are able to install state-of-the-art technology more easily without worrying about disrupting existing infrastructure. In fact, the challenge in developing countries’ cities is perhaps more about citizen distrust of smart city infrastructure that feels too much like surveillance — and could be viewed not as a way to help improve people’s lives, but rather as a way for the rich to get even richer at the expense of the poor.
In the Spanish city of Santiago, a new system will give pedestrians more light when they cross the street at night, La Voz de Galicia reports (Spanish). When pedestrians prepare to cross the street at night, they will be able to press a button and increase the amount of light at the crosswalk, making them more visible to drivers. The crosswalk lighting will be part of a new city illumination system that will have flexible and dynamic controls and is expected to save the city around 70% on lighting costs.
According to the World Health Organization, 27% of all road traffic fatalities worldwide are pedestrians or cyclists.

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The Trumpian Virus Undermining Democracy Is Now Spreading Through South America

Taking inspiration from events in the United States over the past four years, rejection of election results and established state institutions is on the rise in Latin America.

Two supporters of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro dressed in Brazilian flags during a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.

Bolsonaro supporters dressed in national colours with flags in a demonstration in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, on November 4, 2022.

Ivan Abreu / ZUMA
Carlos Ruckauf*


BUENOS AIRES — South Africa's Nelson Mandela used to say it was "so easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build."

Intolerance toward those who think differently, even inside the same political space, is corroding the bases of representative democracy, which is the only system we know that allows us to live and grow in freedom, in spite of its flaws.

Recent events in South America and elsewhere are precisely alerting us to that danger. The most explosive example was in Brazil, where a crowd of thousands managed to storm key institutional premises like the presidential palace, parliament and the Supreme Court.

In Peru, the country's Marxist (now former) president, Pedro Castillo, sought to use the armed and security forces to shut down parliament and halt the Supreme Court and state prosecutors from investigating corruption allegations against him.

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