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Rise of the Wise: Next Steps for Smart Cities

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Latin America is currently the most urbanized region in the world, with nearly 80 percent of its population living in urban centers. Rapid urbanization has brought its problems, and cities must now work to improve their infrastructure and the quality of their public services. Health, education and social development are challenges that can be met through the judicious implementation of innovative projects and policies. Cities are the natural leaders in this process, because they can help gather multiple interests towards a common goal, and they do so by acting pragmatically at a local level.

Smart cities are those who manage their resources efficiently. Traffic, public services and disaster response should be operated intelligently in order to minimize costs, reduce carbon emissions and increase performance.

Many cities in Latin America are already making sizable investments in their "smartness." Buenos Aires is making significant progress regarding open government and the analysis of Big Data. Bogotá is a world leader in the management of Bus Rapid Transit systems. And Rio de Janeiro implemented an impressive Operations Center in 2010, which oversees the everyday management of our city and provides invaluable information for public policies. Those initiatives demonstrate that city governments are dealing with their problems through the intensive use of technology and intelligence.

Making cities smart is the first step towards making them wiser. A wise city is one that is equitable, sustainable and resilient. More than managing its resources, a wise city employs data and collaborates with citizens to discern which current courses of action contribute to long-term improvement in the quality of life. It incorporates knowledge in its operations and public policies, and it becomes more resistant to negative shocks, including those related to climate change. A city becomes wiser when it uses its resources to reduce inequalities in its regions and boost entrepreneurship and innovation in its poorer areas.

Wise cities thrive on collaboration and partnerships, and in this regard the Clinton Global Initiative makes an inestimable contribution by promoting commitments from the private sector and NGOs to meet the needs of citizens. Being held in Latin America for the first time, CGI is recognizing the importance of the region as well as the scope of its problems. Rio de Janeiro is proud to host CGI Latin America and we aim to strengthen that relationship.

As one of the founders of C40 Cities in 2006, the Clinton Climate Initiative has established a close and fruitful partnership in achieving the C40's goals of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emission in cities and help them adapt to the impacts of climate change. On Dec. 15, I will assume the role of Chairman of the C40 Cities, succeeding Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I intend to build on his legacy and harness the power of cities to act on climate change and deliver concrete results. In the past five years, C40 Cities have taken more than 5,000 climate actions. In completion, these actions will have cut GHG emissions by 248 million tons worldwide in 2020 -- the equivalent to the total GHG emissions of Portugal and Argentina combined.

As the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report indicates, climate change is intensifying extreme weather conditions and they will certainly get worse, with natural disasters becoming more frequent and devastating. This means more fatalities, economic losses and disruptions on a global scale. It is paramount that cities undertake comprehensive assessment of the potential risks and invest in adaptations: resilient infrastructure, prompt disaster response and energetic operational capacity. Emerging cities are in a unique position to begin building their resilience -- they are growing in size and have to implement new infrastructures. The cost of those adaptations might be high, but saving lives has no price.

The Clinton Global Initiative brings together the world's leading minds to help solve pressing problems, and it does so by exchanging knowledge and promoting sustainable initiatives. Reduction of GHG emissions and resilience are some of these common goals, and with the continued support of CGI, cities can grow wiser and thus become more equitable for their citizens, sustainable in the long term, and resilient to negative impacts.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the Clinton Global Initiative, in conjunction with the latter's 2013 meeting of CGI Latin America (Dec. 8-10 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil). At the CGI Latin America meeting, international leaders from business, government and NGOs join President Bill Clinton to explore how to carry the region's social and economic progress into the future. CGI members worldwide have already made more than 250 Commitments to Action specifically designed to improve lives in Brazil and across Latin America. To read all the posts in this series, click here, and visit CGI's blog here.