Evolution of smart cities in Latin America | Brazil

Río de Janeiro

The current article focuses on Rio de Janeiro because of its uniqueness: the future olympic city (2016) is the smart city in Latin America on which more information is available on-line.

Brasil belongs to a group of countries known as BRICS , it is the largest economy in Latin America and the second one in the continent (the USA being the first one) and the sixth world’s largest economy according to its nominal GDP. Nevertheless, it is not a regional leader in terms of electronic government and smart cities.

The following evaluations show how Brazil has progressed in terms of integrating Information and Communication Technologies in Public Administration, companies and society:

Brazil Smart Cities


Some Brazilian cities -such as Sao Paulo, Curitiba and Rio de Janeiro- are taking the lead in the development of smart city initiatives and projects. These cities ranked in the following positions (out of a total of 135 cities) according to the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2014 :

City position 

As a regional pioneer in the development of an Operation Center that supports integral territory management using geo-referenced information and data, it is worth mentioning that Rio de Janeiro is the smart city in Latin America on which more documents are available on the web. For this reason, we are focusing the analysis in the current article on this city. This is the fourth article in the series devoted to the Evolution and Perspectives of Smart Cities in Latin America.

Smart territory progress and practices undertaken by Rio de Janeiro are analyzed below. In order to make their relevance and articulation level comprehensible, they were organized in the five (5) analysis components established by the Manual.gob methodology: institutional capacity, legal framework, technology management, smart services and relationship to users.

1) Case study: General aspects 

Rio de Janeiro houses a population of approximately 6,3 million people. Nearly 20% of its inhabitants live in 1000 zones with social problems, the so-called favelas, in which threats posed by natural disasters are a part of daily life.

Results in terms of management capacity achieved by the city of Rio in several evaluations done over the last three years are shown in the table below:

Evaluación Río de Janeiro


In the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2014 evaluation, Rio de Janeiro reached the following positions in each of the dimensions listed in the Index:

Cities in Motion


Rio de Janeiro showed significant progress in the following dimensions established in the IESE Cities in Motion 2014: environment (27) , urban planning (38) , governance (44) and international outreach (46) . In the social cohesion and human capital dimensions , the city positioned itself in the 120th and 132nd places out of the 135 cities being studied.

In 2009, the Rio de Janeiro City Government, led by the mayor Eduardo da Costa Paes, started a fiscal adjustment process along with a process towards the creation of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) that were to make it easier to tackle the economic, social, urban and operational challenges stemming from the organization of the Football World Cup (2014) and the coming Olympic Games (2016) .

In 2010, Rio de Janeiro partnered with private agents to build the COR Operation Centre in the city -from now on, the centre will be referred to as Operation Centre or COR-. The creation of the Centre was supported by computer companies such as IBM y and ORACLE, both in terms of technological and financial support, in order to provide assistance in the decision-making process of more than 30 organizations -both in the Local Government and in the private sector- related to management and monitoring of emergencies and natural disasters.

The COR acts as a situation room that is gradually taking in information and data from other urban management areas, such as public safety and mobility. The COR keeps citizens informed on the situation of the city by means of its official Twitter , Facebook and You Tube . To date, the COR has become a platform to guide smart city investments and foster innovation in urban management.


II. Case Study: Moving forward

A. Institutional Capacity: A public policy on smart cities is available and/or a branch office or government office is created to draw up and manage the strategy or programme for a smart territory.

Since 2010, a Strategic Plan and a Public Management Office are available to the Local Government in Rio de Janeiro, which make it possible for them to permanently monitor progress in actions and goals included in the Plan, as well as measure the impact of such initiatives on citizens.

The execution of the Plan is supported by more than 15,000 public officials, which were properly trained as to the relevance of coordinating activities between agencies. Commitment by public officials was achieved through technical and political leadership, as well as a cultural shift in organization management and the recognition of economic incentives attached to performance and achievement of the goals defined in the Plan. The aforementioned incentive scheme includes everyone from professionals in citizen support services, such as teachers and doctors, to professionals involved in the definition and application of policies in the Local Administration.

The Operation Centre is the main investment Rio has made in terms of smart technology. The COR has created a cultural change in the management of organizations, which were scattered and managed as “information islands” until now, and it has enabled the adoption and application of a strategic, coordinated view shared by the different agents in the city.

The COR was originally devised as a part of the Olympic Plan in 2016, and its main goal was to manage natural disasters, but mayor Eduardo Paes decided that its implementation should be accelerated, as in the second year of his mandate (2010) fifty people were killed in a landslide in the favelas. The COR’s physical and technological infrastructure was built in eight months.

Besides, the Municipal Government, in the framework of the City Strategic Plan, is fostering business entrepreneurship through an agency called Río Negocios . The main goal of the agency is to foster the development of creative economy as well as new developments in the city.


B. Legal framework: A regulation framework is defined to enable the use of Information and Communication Technologies as tools and platforms for public administration and city management.

Since 2009, the Local Goverment in Rio is working to overcome financial restrictions by introducing innovative ideas and the management style of the private sector. Changes in regulation were fostered so that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) could be created and managed in a proactive, flexible way, as well as remove unnecessary obstacles and formalities to the participation of private agents in the management of public resources.

In 2013, private participation in the resources managed by the Municipal Government of Rio de Janeiro amounted to 35% of the total.


C. Technology management: Actions are defined in order to efficiently include Information and Communication Technologies in territory management.

The COR is supported by (among other technologies) a system called “Deep Thunder”, designed by IBM . The system uses mathematical algorithms in order to understand and predict the interaction between the atmosphere and the earth surface. Using the information generated by the System, police forces, fire brigades and rescue teams may in advance allocate their units in places where natural disasters are likely to occur.

In 2014, a department called PENSA was created to support the smart and strategic actions undertaken by COR. PENSA’s main responsibility is to manage the Big Data initiatives launched by the Municipal Government with a view to solving the existing problems in the city.


D. Smart services: Conditions are created to improve and increase the availability of ICT-based information and services for citizens and companies.

The COR Operation Centre in Rio has access to several layers of geo-referenced information, which incorporate real-time data on public transport conditions, information generated by river flow meters, data on tide levels and images from 600 closed-circuit TV cameras located in several places in the city .

More than 100 operators work for the COR and make decisions using the information gathered. In case of a traffic accident in which people are injured, departments included in the COR work cooperatively -following the protocols they previously agreed upon- in order to respond to the situation in a proper and efficient manner.

Waste bin lorries are monitored in the COR using a Global Positioning System (GPS), and this makes it possible to assign them to different tasks in case of an emergency.


E. Relationship to users: Actions or initiatives are launched in order to engage citizens in the development of knowledge society and in solving public affairs.

The Operation Center complies with the principle of transparency in information disclosure and in warranting citizens their right to exercise their function to control and monitor public affairs. With the same goal in mind, mass media companies and radio and TV stations participate in the collegial body that guides the management of the Operation Center.

Citizens may also check the COR website daily in order to find data on traffic jams, weather conditions, pollution, crime rate…

An open data portal is available to Rio -rio data mine- which includes information from the Local Administration that may be consulted and re-used by citizens without charge. Up-to-date information on crime rate and road crash mortality may be found in the portal, among other subjects. The website laid the foundation for the development of the Rio Apps initiative undertaken by the Science and Technology Department in the city, which links open data to citizen engagement. Other applications were developed after Rio Apps, such as EasyTaxi , used in 12 countries all over the world, and the BUUS application, which enables citizens to determine the condition, time and location of public transport systems in the city .

III. Conclusions

Some of the conclusions that account for the success of Rio de Janeiro as a smart city are listed below:

  • A strong, decisive political and technical leadership is present in the Local Government.
  • Adoption of a city view that drives the development of the Strategic Plan and that includes indicators for results and impact.
  • Tackling ambitious projects (Football World Cup and Olympic Games) that generate a virtuous circle in the transformation of the city.
  • Fostering innovation in government management and business development.
  • Resources and knowledge from private agents are available; such private agents work under legal conditions that foster security and stability.
  • Using information and data to face city challenges in an efficient manner. In particular, using them to manage issues, such as natural disasters, that affect the poorest communities.

We use our own and third-party cookies to enable and improve your browsing experience on our website. If you go on surfing, we will consider you accepting its use.