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Montag, 15.07.2024
eGovernment Forschung seit 2001 | eGovernment Research since 2001

The capital of Paraná state in southern Brazil was voted "Most Intelligent City in the World" last year at the Smart City Expo World Congress in Barcelona. Its mayor Rafael Greca explains why his town keeps racking up the accolades.

Q: What makes Curitiba stand out from other cities?

Our history of innovation dates back to the 1870s, when the Rebouças brothers, Brazil’s first black engineers, did some great projects in our region.

That was the DNA of our innovation. But a game changer came in 2017 with the creation of Pinhao Valley innovation ecosystem. We approached startups, universities, non-profit and other institutions to create an integrated tech ecosystem.

Since then, we have been winning awards and being nominated as a finalist somewhere every year. The award last year in Barcelona shows the maturation of this process.

Q: The jury said Curitiba’s approach "had a central focus on enhancing the quality of life for citizens." Which of your initiatives reflect that?

It couldn’t be any other way. Curitiba is recognized for urban planning that works for its citizens. I always tell my team that innovation is only valid when it becomes a social process.

Public health, for instance, is a huge issue in Brazil. In 2017 we created Health Now, an App that lets you book a doctor’s appointment, get vaccinated, and so on. This project won the Latam Smart City Award in 2018, and gave birth to the Curitiba App, which has 600 services.

So technology and innovation are applied in every way possible to make people’s lives easier.

We also take care of infrastructure, building road bypasses, finishing the BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) corridor, called the Green Line, starting electrification of the bus fleet, and investing in several solar energy plantsin many public buildings, including one on top of an old landfill, the Solar Pyramid.

But one major project is still underway: the Caximba New Neighborhood, in an irregular housing complex of nearly 1,700 families next to two important rivers. We are building new houses, regenerating the vegetation, and creating parks to protect the rivers. It is the biggest housing project in the history of Curitiba, with an investment of almost 50 million euros, financed by the French Development Agency.

Q: Smart cities invariably rely on a flow of data. How do you provide that while also protecting people’s personal data and privacy? And how do you ensure public support?

The way to ensure the security of personal data and the privacy of Curitiba's citizens is the e-cidadão (e-citizen), a digital platform used by the Curitiba City Hall. It allows users to access various public services with a single account instead of having to provide their data repeatedly. It has security mechanisms, such as encryption and authentication, and complies with the General Data Protection Law (LGPD), a Brazilian law inspired by the European Union’s GDPR. The LGPD establishes principles, rights, and duties for the processing of personal data.

To ensure public support for the use of e-cidadão, the Curitiba City Hall carried out education campaigns that explained the advantages and rights of system users. More than 73% of our 1.7 million people have an active registration on e-cidadão.

Q: Under a collaboration project between Huawei and TIM Brasil [a mobile operator], Curitiba is being transformed into the country’s first "5G city." That promises high-quality services and transmission speeds with low energy consumption and costs. How will that affect the city’s economy, businesses and communities?

It is already having an impact. By population, Curitiba has the most extensive 5G use of any city in Brazil. The project by TIM and Huawei was announced even before the operation of 5G began in Curitiba, because the city had been prepared to receive the new technology since 2019. We streamlined legal and regulatory processes to speed the implementation of a more modern mobile and internet infrastructure. This led to more investment and connections across the city, and simplified the process of granting licenses and installing antennas.

Also, Curitiba provides free public Wi-Fi anywhere in the city. You can easily get connected at bus terminals, health centers, the Streets of Citizenship [small government branch offices located throughout the city], and other locations. The city already has 310 points with Wi-Fi Curitiba free connections. Currently, there are 307,000 users registered to use the service, with 80,000 new users in 2023 alone, and more than 2,000,000 accesses.

Q: What smart city ambitions do you have in future for Curitiba, particularly with the seemingly limitless potential of AI?

AI is a big deal, and we are preparing the city for that. Last March, I created Brazil’s first municipal AI Secretariat to develop innovation as a social transformation tool and legacy for the city. alongside the Curitiba Agency for Development and Innovation, which already works with the city's innovation ecosystem, Pinhão Valley. The AI Secretariat will also work closely with the Municipal Council of Innovation, Science, and Technology, as well as the public and private sectors, universities, and cultural and social institutions.

The new Secretariat will promote new projects that use AI to create systems capable of simulating reasoning, learning, and human perception in a way that improves the quality of public services. It will define a portfolio of priority AI projects based on diagnoses and on the Municipal Information and Communication Technology Policy, which is always aligned with the commitment of Curitiba to the UN Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs). Moreover, the Curitiba Agency for Development and Innovation will hold workshops and training for public servants to build knowledge and awareness and AI culture in public sector and society. We will use Artificial Intelligence, but always with human intelligence.

Q: You were initially mayor of the city more than 30 years ago and were then elected a second time in 2017. Has the city technologically transformed in that time? And what lessons can other cities learn from Curitiba’s experience?

I’m glad you asked this question, because there’s a project from the 1990s that I believe was very important for the city’s transformation. The Lighthouses of Knowledge – a decentralized network of libraries that came online with the first Brazilian public internet connection in 1993 – revolutionized public education in Curitiba. It offered students and the community free access to computers and the internet. That was the beginning of a digital transformation.

More than 20 years later, with the Pinhão Valley, these spaces are being reformulated and revitalized as the Lighthouses of Knowledge and Innovation. They provide “maker spaces” for students and teachers from municipal public schools, giving them access to skills and techniques such as 3D printing. They are open to the entire community.

Users can develop prototypes, do 3D modeling and printing, create games, toys, and presentations, and learn creative problem-solving techniques and programming languages. There are 33 Lighthouses implemented since 2017, plus a public Fab Lab. Moreover, public school teachers receive training for using the spaces. This guarantees access to technology for everyone from an early age.

Another important initiative, Speak Curitiba, is a public consultation where the population helps decide the spending priorities of the city. This year, it won a Government Excellence Award promoted by the United Arab Emirates, and has been highlighted by the UN as a local example of governance aligned with SDG 11, which aims to make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

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Quelle/Source: Huawei, 29.06.2024

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