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Latin American cities need to continue focusing on the basics of improving digital access and ICT training, while at the same time drawing up specific e-government initiatives to help the maturity of their societies, Erik Kruse, strategic marketing manager for Swedish telecoms equipment manufacturer Ericsson (Nasdaq: ERIC), told BNamericas.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Ericsson Business Innovation Forum held in San Jose, California, Kruse referred specifically to the three Latin America cities - Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Mexico City - that were included in the company's recently released Networked Society City Index that ranked 25 cities according to ICT maturity and development.
Buenos Aires, São Paulo, and Mexico City ranked 13th, 14th and 16th and scoring 22, 20 and 17 points out of 100, respectively - putting them somewhere in the middle compared to other cities in the index.
As a reference, the three best performing cities were Singapore, Stockholm and Seoul because they have been investing extensively in ICT in initiatives. They scored 66, 59 and 53 respectively. Singapore, for example, is a pioneer in e-health and traffic congestion management, while Stockholm sees ICT as a major enabler for research collaboration and knowledge transfer, and Seoul is using ICT to carry out green high-tech initiatives.
Kruse said that by providing the best examples to the lower performing cities, this can inspire dialogue with decision makers to form an ICT framework that will have an economic, environmental and social impact.
The executive said that city governments need to encourage a mental shift in the consumer so they realize the benefits to their daily lives of using technology. For example, mobile phones are being used in many emerging markets like Africa for small money transfers, given that banking penetration is very limited.
"There's a societal change that cannot be reversed. We can't now imagine life without mobile phones," he said.
But increased demand on connectivity calls for greater efficiency and coordination of complex systems that run public services - in essence, holistic planning and a structured approach to ICT. And the initial challenges for emerging markets are access and education.
The study cites specific examples of initiatives carried out in Latin America, such as the social impact of São Paulo's 350 public telecenters spread across the city, with 5mn registered users.
In addition, São Paulo's Young Tech initiative aims to educate students from 16-21 years old in public high schools in ICT skills.
The purpose is to empower young people in the area of ICT to ensure they enter the job market with the appropriate skills, Kruse said.
Other initiatives in the city include a hosted solution for electronic invoices to improve efficiency for small companies and individuals. São Paulo also promotes public transparency initiatives, such as an interactive statistics portal and a website that displays municipal expenses.
With regard to ICT projects with an economic impact, a public-private partnership in the Buenos Aires province gives thousands of civil servants access to tools needed to use ICT and promote e-government solutions.
And in the environment, São Paulo monitors the biological health of trees with new software developed to manage a tree planting project.