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Rio De Janeiro is a bustling metropolis in a booming country–and, increasingly, an example of how government and business leaders can cooperate to make cities work better. Join the live blog today and tomorrow for coverage of speeches, panels and hallway discussions.

Here’s Sam Palmisano’s speech:

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The Start:

2:20 p.m.      Welcome by Ricardo Pelegrini, General Manager, IBM Brazil

Two years ago, IBM started talking about a smarter plant. “Today, it’s an urgent necessity for cities to be smarter.”

Around one million people worldwide migrate to cities every week. By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will be living in cities. This urbanization represents great economic opportunities and also important social and environment challenges.

Nowadays, cities consume 75% of the world’s energy, release 80% of polluting gases and waste 20% of their water due to leaks and inefficiencies in the infrastructure. “The good news is we can change our cities to make them more sustainable, and achieve growth and progress at the same time.”

Technology is available that can be used to enhance urban security, decrease traffic jams and avoid the waste of energy and water.

In the next two days, let’s analyze how cities are modernizing their systems and their infrastructure to encourage economic development, generate innovation and improve the education of the population.


2:55 p.m.   SmarterCities: Crucibles of Global Progress, Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM

We have come to Rio because it is a compelling example of a new kind of actor that has appeared on the world stage – the smarter global city.

We face many challenges today. “It can seem as if the world is getting the better of our leaders.” But we see that progress is still happening and it’s being driven by forward-thinking mayors and other innovators in business, universities and non-governmental organizations in cities.

How is it that mayors are getting things done, while other leaders seem stuck?

–“These city leaders are non-ideological. They get things done.”

–Smarter city leaders think in terms of systems. An example is Rio’s intelligent operations center, which  coordinates information from more than 20 city departments.

–Smarter city leaders think – and manage – for the long term.

Amidst all the tumult in the world today, there is another model taking shape. This new generation of leaders is seizing upon the vast quantities of data their cities generate to drive growth and sustainability. “The flip side of every crisis is a vast new opportunity for progress.”

I believe future historians will look back on this moment as the dawn of a new golden age of innovation, widely shared economic growth and global citizenship.

So, let’s use the next two days to think together about what this new urban age could be and then roll up our sleeves for a collaborative work session on how to build it.


3:20 p.m.   Special Address: The SmarterCities Agenda: The Transformation of Rio de Janeiro, by Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio

“People talk about the triumph of the city, because it’s the place where people can fulfill their destinies.”

Cities start with services that meet people’s needs. Smarter cities provide a better way to organize and interact in positive ways. Technology progress allows use to got to places we never could go before.

The creative class gathers in cities, and promotes its development.

But there are huge challenges, such as violence and environmental impacts. We face many challenges. We in Rio see these problems on a large scale.

We have prioritized the improvement of services, so we have focused on investments in technology. I monitor the progress of the city with technology every day.

I don’t know how earlier mayors were able to manage their cities without the help of these technologies.

We have been able to increase the collection of taxes without having to increase taxes, for instance.

In future days we’ll reach even higher steps.

Our intelligent operations center allows us to integrate many of the operations of the city so we can provide better services. We have been able to organize ourselves in the face of chaos—when big storms come.

For 400 years public authorities weren’t able to respond to floods and landslides. But now we can mitigate these catastrophies. We can manage risks. We can coordinate better.

We simulated heavy rains and flooding. The control center connects the mayor’s house. I had to wake up at 5 a.m. and participate in the simulation. It was sunny, but we simulated a storm. This is the kind of capability we’ll have.

We have weather information coming in. We have 400 video cameras around the city, and more are coming. IBM scientists created a high tech tool for modeling weather in the city and predict where the rains will fall, so we can react.

Thanks to the control center, we now can have constant awareness and monitoring of what’s going on in the city.

We leaders can sleep because the control center never sleeps. “It’s driving change for the way we manage the city.”

All the departments are connected up 24/7 and they’re aware of what’s going on, and they coordinating their activities. It shows that humans do need to work together.

Rio had a brain drain for a while, but now it has the capacity to attract back and retain these talents. It’s no longer just a tourist spot. Now foreigners are leaving places where there’s a crisis and coming here for opportunities.

We’re developing public-private partnerships.

Rio’s doors are open.

We hope that Rio will be one of the smart cities of the world.


3:45 p.m. Eduardo Paes, mayor of Rio, talks with Sam Palmisano, CEO of IBM and Fareed Zakaria, CNN host.


“Every city needs to decide what it wants to be. After Rio lost the capital of the country it spent 40 years about what we weren’t any more.”

“Cities are where the world is run.”

Every city has its own assets. In Rio, the environment is key. People decide to move here or invest here based on it.

“For a while, it was very popular to be a gang leader in some of our communities. They felt they were robbing from the rich and giving to the poor.” The situation got very bad.

Now we drive the criminals out of the favelas, one after another. Then we bring in the police and social services. We can transform society.

20 years ago people would say don’t touch the favelas at all. These days, we have a different situation. We can’t have more favelas. We can provide housing for the people. We have to provide transportation so they can get to work faster. Today, it might take 3 hours for poor people to get to work.

We have 600 favelas, They won’t go away. We’ll leave people where they are and bring them public safety, public works and social work.

In 2020, we’ll have all the favelas urbanized.


You’re going to create a modern transportation system. I encourage you to think of it end to end, coordinate the different modes of transportation, so people can make connections and save time.

“This is systemic thinking. It’s a total system, not just a collection of separate elements.”

Predictability is key. People need that.


Here’s a video of the panel discussion:

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Here’s a look at how IBM worked with the Rio to set up an intelligent operations center:

Nearly a year since inaugurating its city operations center, Rio is working with IBM to add new capabilities to city’s emergency response system by giving citizens information that will help them better manage their daily lives.

The new automated alert system will notify city officials and emergency personnel when changes occur in the flood and landslide forecast for the city. Under the previous system, notifications were manually relayed. The new alert system is expected to drastically reduce the reaction times to emergency situations by using instantaneous mobile communications, including automated email notifications and instant messaging, to reach emergency personnel and citizens.

The new alert system, developed by IBM’s Software Labs, can track the receipt of messages to ensure response is immediate and effective. Because responses to each emergency are tracked from start to finish, the alert system also provides a wealth of data available for analysis after the fact.

Another benefit Rio citizens can enjoy today is access to daily data feeds from the Rio Operations Center. The Center’s profile on Facebook and Twitter provide frequent updates on weather and traffic, as well as recommended alternative routes around the city on days of special events including concerts, soccer matches and festivals.

Citizens can follow the Rio Operations Center updates on Twitter @OperacoesRio and Facebook at Centro de Operações Rio.


4:50 p.m. Special Address: The Transformation of Mega Cities, by  Johnny Araya Monge, mayor, San Jose City, Costa Rica.

The world’s urban population is already larger than the rural population. By 2050 it will be more than 70%.

Our big challenge will be to design a new urban paradigm. We want cities that are more democratic, more sustainable and more competitive. In the knowledge-based society, this means smarter cities. So we need smarter administration of the world’s cities.

We’re talking about the transformation of mega cities. ‘Mega cities are now a mega problem.”

All of the cities with 12 and 15 million inhabitants are in the Third World, or emerging nations. Poverty and social inclusion are part of the mix. This makes city administration very difficult.

We have the capacity to avoid such large cities being developed. We need a new paradigm for cities. We need to break down the definition of what is city and what is countryside, and what environments are protected.

It seems smart to encourage development of second-tier cities. Ideally countries should have a network of intermediate size cities and towns that are interconnected.

“Think of cities as a habitat, a space shared with plants and animals.” There should be agricultural areas, ecological protected areas and urban areas blended together.

In Costa Rica, we’re trying to reverse some of our old ideas about urbanism. Many cities were created around the idea of the freeways. These cities are spread out—they’re inefficient.  They also lead to social segregation. “A city must be a shared territory for all.”

We’re promoting growth in high-density ways, so the city is more compact. “The compact cities are always the most successful ones in the world.”

We’re using a lot of renewable energy sources, and we’re aiming to be carbon neutral as a nation.

We’re repopulating and transforming the downtown part of the city. It was abandoned. It was taken by gangs and drug leaders. We’re now rebuilding the social tissue of the downtown. We’re also promoting urban forests, using native trees along streets and avenues.

We’re putting in a tramway, and creating pedestrian streets. We’re rehabilitating the area where gangs and drug dealers were. “Thousands of people are walking downtown and it’s booming.”

The context:

Here’s Costa Rica President Laura Chinchilla talking about establishing a responsible country:

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6:00 p.m. Special Address: At the Intersection of Globalization and Urbanization, by Fareed Zakaria, CNN host.

I want to paint the broader picture for you. At the end of the day it’s all about improving the living standards of people around the world—giving people access to the American Dream or the Brazilian Dream.

Growing up in India, I was fascinated about the wealth, the opportunity, the dynamism of America. That’s what attracted most people to America. Behind it was the freedom and rule of law and the constitution.

Today in the US you see a lot of pessimism. But the American Dream is alive and well in Rio, in Shanghai. This is where the optimists are.

You’re seen a switch from closed systems to open systems, from isolation to engagement. These changes unleashed political stability and a reduction in warfare; economic convergence—globalization and the adoption of best economic and business practices; and technological connectivity—the information revolution.

It unleashes enormous opportunities. Brazil has been able to take advantage of these changes and plug into the global economy and play.

The challenge for the future is this extraordinary opportunity. Everybody is moving through this at the same time. A lot of people in Asia and Latin America prospered. Governments just had to do simple things, and they got economic growth.

Now you have reached some degree of saturation of the easy path to rising per capital GDP. We’re entering a more challenging phase.

“This is the final phase of industrialization. Everything in your society has to be modernized. Everything has to be smart.”

It’s a lot more than supply and demand. You have to straighten out your infrastructure, your legal system. You have to improve productivity growth.

You have to deal with traffic and pollution. You can only deal with that with improved labor productivity. That’s increasingly difficult to do it because you live in a competitive world. “You’re in a competitive race with other cities around the world.”

To see where real growth is happening, don’t look at the mega cities of the world. There are a few exceptions, like New York and London, because of the financial industry. The real growth is in the 600 middle-tier cities underneath them. They may form themselves into clusters, tapping new transportation and communications infrastructures.

In the US, American companies like IBM are doing extraordinarily well in this global world. They master the shifts in technology. But the average American worker, the American city—they’re struggling.

People in the United States will have to adapt like hell. I’m optimistic, though.

Look at all the things happening around the world. It’s easy to get gloomy. But the pressures of globalization are forcing innovation, productivity gains and better governance.

“Ultimately this is going to have a beneficial effect.”

“This is all about unleashing human talent in away that we’ve never seen before and on a scale we’ve never seen before.”


Here’s Fareed’s speech:

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Here are wrap-up comments by Bruno Di Leo, IBM’s general manager for the growth markets.

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