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Latin American Leaders Commit to Forge Inclusive Digital Future for All

Main article image credit: International Telecommunications Union | Home page image credit: UN DESA — Division for Inclusive Social Development

On Thursday, Dr. Victor Santiago Pineda — a globally recognized disability rights expert, President of World Enabled and Director of the Inclusive Cities Lab at the University of California Berkeley — shared his vision for socially inclusive, smart cities of the future in a keynote address at the Smart City Expo LATAM Congress 2018 in Puebla, Mexico. 

Smart Cities for All, a joint project of the Global Initiative for Inclusive ICTs (G3ict) and World Enabled, estimates that most smart cities today are making the digital divide for persons with disabilities worse, not better. Pineda and James Thurston, G3ict VP for Global Strategy and Development, work with leaders and communities across Latin America and the world to ensure that smart city programs and technology investments do not leave behind persons with disabilities. 

As Pineda has pointed out, “People with disabilities form part of every community, and rapid urbanization in Latin America requires cities to deploy technologies to improve the lives of persons with disabilities and older persons.” 

Mayor Mauricio Rodas of Quito, Ecuador said in a statement: “Quito was the first city in Latin America to contribute to the Smart Cities for All Toolkit. As Mayor, I am committed to deploying technology solutions for human needs, solutions that align with the Sustainable Development Goals.” 

The Smart Cities for All Global Initiative is collaborating with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) to ensure that the Regional Action Plan for the Implementation of the New Urban Agenda responds to the needs of persons with disabilities and older persons. 

Next month, Smart Cities for All will join over 40 urban development ministers at the Annual Assembly of Ministers and Highest Authorities in Housing and Urban Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (MINURVI) in Buenos Aires, supported by the World Bank, United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC) and UN-Habitat’s Regional Office of Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC). 

“We are proud to work with Smart Cities for All to enhance inclusion and accessibility in Latin American cities,” said Elkin Velasquez, Regional Director of UN-Habitat ROLAC. “We want to integrate the concept of universal design into the implementation of the New Urban Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals.” 

Tools for accessible and inclusive smart cities 

“We launched the Smart Cities for All Global Initiative to help cities leverage technology, including new and emerging technologies like artificial intelligence and augmented reality, to close the digital divide for persons with disabilities and older persons,” Thurston said. “We are partnering with industry, government and disability organizations to create tools and a knowledge base that help ensure the digital transformation of cities leads to greater inclusion.” 

The Smart Cities for All Digital Inclusion Toolkit is now available in 10 languages — Spanish, Portuguese, English, Arabic, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Hebrew, French and Marathi. It includes tools to help guide city technology investments and assess and benchmark a city’s digital inclusion. 

“Thousands of city leaders in hundreds of cities now have access to critical tools in their native languages and according to their needs,” Pineda said. “We are proud of our partnerships with leading global stakeholders and networks to quickly get these critical tools in the hands of key decision makers today.” 


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