Evolution of smart cities in Latin America: 5 Uruguay


Montevideo is the only city in Uruguay mentioned or ranked in international evaluations. The Proyecto Montevideo 2030 (“Montevideo 2030 Project”) may be a platform to help the city move towards a leadership position in the ICT area.

I. Introduction

Uruguay exports more software than any other country in Latin America and it is also the leading country in the area of electronic government according to the UN e-Government Survey 2014 report .

This leadership may be explained by several reasons, including :

  • In 2007 the Agencia para el Desarrollo del Gobierno de Gestión Electrónica y la Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento AGESIC , (“Agency for the Development of Electronic Management Government and for the Information and Knowledge Society”) was created with a view to strengthen Public Administration through ICT Information and Communication Technologies and foster social inclusion.
  • Since AGESIC was created, a growing flow of funding support from the Gobierno Nacional (the country’s national Government) has been generated, targeting electronic government, open government and digital inclusion initiatives.
  • Political support to actions undertaken by AGESIC through its functional connection to the Presidencia de la República (Presidency of the Republic)
  • Project management and development tasks at AGESIC are performed by people with a wealth of knowledge in the ICT industry and in Public Administration.  ICT projects lead by AGESIC are oriented towards innovation and the generation of public value.
  • The business sector is also focused on the development of software products that may be applied in electronic government.

The progress made by Uruguay in the ICT area may also be seen in the following international reports:

Avaluation e-Government Urugay


Avaluation ICT Urugay


When it comes to cities, Montevideo is the only city in Uruguay to be mentioned or ranked in international reports such as IESE Cities in Motion Index 2014  and the Fast Company Magazine . In the Cities in Motion report, Montevideo ranked in the 108th position out of a total of 135 cities. The table below shows the city position at the worldwide and regional level:


Cities position in Uruguay


We will now analyze the progress and smart territory practices in Montevideo. 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.

II. Case Study: General Aspects

Montevideo CityMontevideo is the southernmost capital in the American continent. City population, including its metropolitan area, amounts to 1.947.604 inhabitants. The city is divided into 8 municipal areas and 62 neighbourhoods, as shown in Graph. 1.

In the Mercer Ranking 2015, Montevideo was qualified as the city with the best quality of life in Latin America . Mercer’s evaluation includes criteria in several areas, such as political situation, social issues, economy, environmental issues, sociocultural position of the city and the availability of public services, transport, housing, health, education, leisure and entertainment.

On the other hand, the Globalization and World Rankings Research Institute, in its 2015 report , evaluated Montevideo as a beta city, along with other cities in the region such as Caracas, Bogotá and Rio de Janeiro, as well as other cities in the world such as Auckland, Oslo, Manchester, Karachi, Vancouver, Brisbane, Helsinki and Geneva.

In the IESE Cities in Motion Index 2014 evaluation, Montevideo ranked as follows in each of the 10 dimensions in the Index which you can see below.

In the present evaluation, Montevideo showed significant progress in the dimensions of governance (27) and urban planning (17) . In the “mobility and transportation” and technology dimensions which are usually essential for the development of smart cities Montevideo ranked in the 114th and in the 111th position respectively.

III. Case Study: Smart City Practices

Index Cities in MotionA. Institutional capacity: A public policy for smart cities already exists, and/or a branch or government office is created in which the strategy or programme for a smart city territory is outlined and managed.

The National Government adopted the Digital Agenda Uruguay 2011-2015 , which has set several goals for the country. In the current year, the goals to be achieved include:

  • Broadband internet access (or superior) in 80% of households in the country.
  • 80% of the procedures most frequently used by the Central Administration are electronically available.
  • All public employees, citizens and companies use their electronic signature in their interactions with the State.
  • Electronic Reports are available for all the Central Administration in the National Government.
  • 80% of organisms in the Central Administration in the National Government provide standards and models for citizen engagement and interaction by electronic means.

From a local perspective, Montevideo is drawing up the Proyecto Montevideo 2030 which includes several projects connecting Information and Communication Technologies:

  • Antel Arena: The project (still being drawn up) is developed in the framework of an agreement between the telco company Antel and the Intendencia de Montevideo for the development of a physical space devoted to technological innovation, where a broad range of last-generation services and technologies will be offered, along with the popularization of culture and sports.
  • Integral mobility management centre: for traffic control and monitoring, central management of traffic lights and electronic management of infraction control. The process is now in the stage of hiring the company to develop the center

To be precise, there are no available plans, agendas or public policies in the city that tackle smart territory issues and bring all critical sectors and subsystems in the city together around innovation, technology and sustainability. The Intendencia de Montevideo did not point out a specific public employee or office to lead smart city initiatives.

B. Legal framework: A legal framework is outlined for the use of Information and Communication Technologies as tools and management platforms for public administrations and cities.

The legal framework in Uruguay favours the development of the information society, electronic government and open government. In terms of local government, the following rules were established at both the national and the local level:

  • Law Number 17.930 (2005): the Agencia para el Desarrollo del Gobierno de Gestión Electrónica y la Sociedad de la Información y del Conocimiento AGESIC (“Agency for the Development of Electronic Management Government and for Information and Knowledge Society”) is created.
  • Law Number 18.381 (2009): regulations for the right to access public information.
  • Administrative Decision Number 1186 (2011) in which AGESIC is requested to coordinate the fulfillment of the commitments taken by becoming members of the Open Government Partnership .
  • Administrative Decision Number 640 (2010) by Intendencia de Montevideo; it promotes the permanent publication of all data managed by Intendencia Municipal.
  • Administrative Decision Number 5328 (2012) by Intendencia de Montevideo. Using open source technologies in computer applications developed, adopted or bought by the Intendencia is considered a priority by the municipal government.


C. Technology Management: Actions are defined for an effective integration of Information and Communication Technologies in territory management.


Uruguay is the country holding the highest average speed of internet access in Latin America: 5,5 Mbps .


  • The Centre for the comprehensive management of Mobility (which is expected to start its operation at the end of 2015 or else at the beginning of 2016) will integrate smart central management of crossroads regulated by traffic lights in 12 areas in the city, traffic control and monitoring by means of 165 cameras and a real-time information system on traffic conditions using automatic variable information panels, the internet and social networks.
  • Since 2012, the Intendencia is using sensors in several streets in the city to gather information on the amount of vehicles, the periods when more cars move around and the speed at which they do so. Such data will enable the Intendencia to efficiently plan the use of streets and facilitate mobility of vehicles and pedestrians.
  • In 2015, the Intendencia de Montevideo, supported by the Dirección Nacional de Energía (“National Agency for Energy”) will introduce the first 50 electric cabs in the city with a view to progressively replacing fossile fuels by electric energy in public transport. Patent licensing for such cabs will be exonerated, and the cars will also be exonerated from paying fees in the first two years of operation.

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

Montevideo is one of the cities in Latin America that intends to create city services that target the millennium generation, also known as millennials . At the end of 2014, the Intendencia, other local agents and several ministries signed an agreement to promote and develop proposals that promote the improvement of work and leisure-oriented night activities that turn the city into a more attractive place for millennials .

The portal by the Intendencia de Montevideo makes it possible to pay several taxes on-line, including real estate taxes, and download the mobile application Cómo ir (“How to go to…”) aimed at managing public transport routes.


E. Relationship to Users: Actions or initiatives are established to involve citizens in the development of the knowledge society and in the solution of public affairs.

In the city, actions taken in favour of a smart territory are mostly focused on the development of initiatives that target open government and open data.

In 2010, Montevideo was the first city in Latin America to establish an open data policy. By using open data, the following progress has been made in the city :

  • Política Montevideo Abierto (“Policy for an Open Montevideo”): focused on using new technologies to facilitate the development of services from and to the community. It is based on four fundamental principles: Open Data, Open Services, Free Software and Open Knowledge .
  • Create an Open Data Portal that includes 47 data sets in several areas, such as mobility, infrastructure, tourism and economic development .
  • Develop applications such as Cómo ir that enables users to manage time periods and availability of public transport, or Por mi Barrio (“In my neighbourhood”) that makes it possible to report incidences in terms of street furniture.

It should be noted that the Gobierno Nacional is promoting citizen engagement using electronic means through several actions and programmes such as the citizen engagement portal , which has an impact on Montevideo, the leading urban center in the country which hosts most of the population in Uruguay.


IV. Conclusions

Some of the conclusions that were reached regarding the progress made by Montevideo as a smart city are listed below:

  • The city has been the city with the better quality of life in the region for for quite a long time, and it has been internationally awarded for that since 2006. Nevertheless, its public value and competitive advantage has not been fostered using Information and Communication Technologies.
  • Montevideo offers great, unique conditions in the region (governance, urban planning, investor confidence, size, population and leadership in the software industry) to develop a technological district such as those in Buenos Aires, Ruta N in Medellín (Colombia) or Smart City Santiago in Santiago de Chile.
  • Given that a smart city policy is not available, and that no offices in the Intendencia de Montevideo are taking the lead in this area, the process is not as dynamic as it could be when it comes to city management through open government initiatives.
  • No close interaction may be observed between the Gobierno Nacional and the Gobierno Local (Local Government) to progress in smart city programmes and projects. The situation may be explained in terms of the competence areas by each government level.
  • The Proyecto Montevideo 2030 may be the platform to turn the city into the ICT leader in the region.

I would like to thank Dr. Luciana González, Management assistant at AGESIC, for her help in the preparation of the current article.





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