“The future belongs to those who are bold enough to grab it.” Those were the worlds of Claudio Orrego, the mayor of the municipality of Penalolen, a section of Santiago, Chile. Mayor Orrego was one of the many dignitaries and civic leaders at IBM’s latest Smarter Cities conference, here in Santiago.
More than 100 business and government leaders, led by IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano, attended the event, the first major Smarter Cities conference in Latin America.
Santiago was chosen for this session because it is an emblem of rapid growth and investment. Nearly a century ago, less than 500,000 people lived in the Santiago area. Today, the
city has more than 5 million people — one-third of all Chileans — and the city is known for being a hub of regional commerce and for investing in education.
“We have grown and prospered, but not all have benefited equally,” Mayor Orrego said. “Our goal must be to ensure that more people can share in the benefits of living in Santiago, and the savings we can realize in making Santiago a Smarter City can be invested in education and other economic development.”
Palmisano was also joined on stage by Fernando Echeverria, the governor of the metropolitan region of Santiago, who discussed the need for “interconnected systems that can help us run our city in a more efficient manner.”
“The challenges your cities face – educating your young, keeping your citizens safe and healthy, attracting and facilitating commerce, and enabling the smooth flow of planes, trains, cars and pedestrians – are only being compounded by the global economic downturn,” Palmisano said. “That’s the bad news. The good news is that new models are emerging… and this presents leaders everywhere – in business, in government, across civil society – with a choice. How will we react?”
Palmisano praised what he called “the real story of Chile and Latin America,” where the economy is growing 5.4 percent on average, far outpacing most developed nations.
“As I have told my colleagues and our leaders in the United States and in Western Europe, we need to heed the lesson of the world’s emerging markets and invest in the future,” Palmisano said. You need to look ahead and position yourself for the major growth opportunities ahead. If you are a government leader, you can’t just tax and regulate: you have to plan for the future.”