Pablo Mlynkiewicz, Director of Information Sciences, City of Buenos Aires, spoke to Manuel Manrique about how he wants to change government’s mindset to new technologies
How is the work between Buenos Aires and the private sector?
We have project accelerators and several open contracts, which we call public bidding documents, where private services are requested. For example, this can include requesting Wi-Fi connectivity in different points of the city or requesting support in the development of certain platforms or software. We have the ideas but sometimes not the developers that are needed to implement them in the necessary time, and that is where companies give us the muscle.
Most are start-ups, which have sponsors from larger companies, such as Microsoft, Intel or Google. But most are Argentine companies, with Argentine capital, associated with larger accelerators that sponsor their projects. These are then presented on scale in the City of Buenos Aires.
For which sectors is the work of the secretariat oriented?
The majority of work is focused on public transport because it has a big impact, since in Buenos Aires approximately one million people move by public transport every day. Any work on public transport impacts many people. Also, work is oriented towards urban planning–work involving public squares and the general recovery of unused public spaces which are then reused as green spaces. For that there is a lot of interaction with private companies.
Does Buenos Aires exchange with other cities?
Yes, particularly with the cities of Latin America–with the city of Medellin on the theme of smart cities, with Montevideo and other cities within Argentina such as Bahía Blanca, Córdoba, Rosario and Tucumán. These have smart cities offices and we work on common agendas.
What are the challenges for the future?
The most important thing for us now is to try to build a comprehensive plan for the implementation of sensors for 2018 and beyond. These are new technologies and are public-private projects–given that, in various parts of the world, governments do not have enough money to implement this type of development.
We need to find partners who want to help us to carry out these challenges, but who also understand that you cannot monetise all projects that are done in conjunction with the government. For example, to make sensors available in Buenos Aires, we need a network, which can be a LoRa network*. We need a low-frequency, low-cost network and that should not be monetised. But that is also part of the challenge, as well as the actual task of making sensors available.
The other, which I think is the most important, is a change of mentality. We must try to change the mindset of people, who have worked within the government for many years, to understand the new technologies and open their minds to these new challenges. The previous mentalities were more shielded, and people would not be concerned with sharing their ideas with the rest of the world. Today it is the opposite. In everything we do, I aim to see how we can improve it and how we can improve the quality of life of our residents. I think that’s a big challenge. It is a change of mentality that will take us several generations.
*LoRa stands for Long Range and is a technology that uses unlicensed spectrum below 1GHz along with a form of direct sequence spread spectrum modulation that provides signal detection below the noise level in a wide communication area between remote sensors and gateways connected to the network.