Photo credit: Conrad Shutt, shot in Cap-Haitien
Smart city will not happen in the future, it is happening now, with countless of benefits. Forbes tech has reported that several industries in smart cities are saving billions of dollars from the energy sector to transportation. Some countries in the Caribbean are currently using technology tools to attract more tourists, provide clean energy, or to reinforce security in different communities; however, most countries in the region still don’t understand the benefits of the use of technology in the process of economic development, and Haiti is an example.
Implementation requires leadership and vision. According to a research published by the IDB (International Development Bank) “The Road toward Smart Cities”, “The cities of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) are the protagonists of one of the most significant processes of population growth ever experienced in the planet, with major implications for the sustainability, quality of life, and competitiveness of the region.” Addressing these challenges requires an evolution in governance and decision-making, as well as a more efficient use of our cities’ resources, to undertake a smart approach to management.
With a population of approximately 11,011,193, Haiti is the fastest growing nation in the Caribbean, even though only 1.5 million have access to the Internet, over four million Haitians inside and outside of Haiti are using the internet to communicate with each other, and do some other significant transaction. In 2016, only 1,308,290 had access to the web. Nevertheless, it does not stop the country from hosting the largest Tech Summit in the region this year. Additionally, the number of Hackathon events (focus on resolving many issues with technology) is rapidly growing. Information of all kinds is becoming more accessible; however, like many sectors or industries, smart cities will not just happen, it needs to be planned and well executed.
In 2015 the tourism industry in the Caribbean region generated over $30 billion with the arrival of 28 million tourists according to Caribbean Journal. Smart cities initiatives, will not only good for locals, but also for those who visit the region every year. International Communication Union defines a smart city as an innovative city that uses information and communication technology (ICT), and other means to improve quality of life, efficiency of urban operation and services and competitiveness, while ensuring that it meets the needs of present and future generations with respect to economic, social, and environmental aspects.
Transforming our “traditional cities” into smart ones needs long-term and strategic planning; however, it will greatly help in the development process, and facilitate more investments. Take for instance the case of Santiago, Dominican Republic, this city is Dominican Republic’s second largest city, and the 4th largest city in the Caribbean, both regarding population and economy. July 3, 2014, the city started “Santiago de los Caballeros: Sustainable City, with support from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), it is an action plan focus on resolving issues related to sustainability of the city and its environs. Among the issues that these project addresses include climate change, urban development, economic competitiveness, public safety, and mobility. Three other cities in the Latin American and the Caribbean have already strategically invested in conserving resources and upgrading infrastructure to ensure a more sustainable future in the face of rapid development; the list includes Mexico city in Mexico and Medellín in Colombia