The Smart City Expo Puebla, held in the city of Puebla from February 16-18, 2016, brought together over 8000 experts and public officials from 36 countries to examine how local governments can innovate to provide improved service delivery, mobility and quality of life. Organized in partnership with FIRA Barcelona, the Government of Mexico, the State of Puebla and the City of Puebla, the Expo focused on themes of sustainability, equity, participation and mobility, and featured numerous case studies of successful experiences from the Americas.
Local governments in the Americas face numerous challenges in the areas of security, waste management, transit, mobility and environmental degradation. With the United Nations estimating that by 2050 75% of the world population will live in urban centers, it is clear that the livable cities of tomorrow will be built with an innovative, sustainable infrastructure and with a conscious and active citizenry. In Mexico, the concept of the smart city is just taking root, while other countries in the Americas have had a longer experience of innovative urban design, planning and service delivery. The Smart City Expo Puebla series strives to bring together experts and local government practitioners to share what has worked and what hasn’t worked to meet the challenges of urban growth in an era of aging – or, in many cases – deficient infrastructure, and increased social pressure for improved government service.
The Forum (David Parks, Senior Advisor, Governance) was invited to participate on a panel discussion on “Institutional Strengthening for Smart Cities”, in which panelists discussed how orders of government could cooperate and coordinate to support local government innovation. Other panelists included Gabriela Alarcon, National Institute of Competitiveness (IMCO); Aurora Ugalde, Mayor of Tlalnepantla, State of Mexico; and Neftali del Toro, Mayor of Tapachula, Chiapas. National bodies to manage decentralization, creative financing for infrastructure projects, and expansion of own-source revenue sources were some of the tools identified as potential areas of support. While issues of land use, urban planning and design fall within the jurisdiction of local governments, some panelists noted that there can be a role for more senior orders of government, particularly in the areas of inter-municipal and inter-state urbanization and mobility, accessible housing initiatives and environmental policy and planning. Also identified was the complexity of planning and smart retrofitting in cities and towns with heritage designation (through UNESCO or other bodies). These localities often face certain development limitations that are not placed on new growth regions and recent created urban zones, and will therefore require very customized approaches to intelligent development.