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Latin America gets its first ‘smart city’ as Panama leads the way

The Mayor of Panama has declared his pride that the capital of Panama is Latin America's first 'smart city'. The global movement towards smart cities has been described as a phenomenon and South America has been slower than other continents in terms of embracing such a transformation. Cities all over the world are evolving as leaders attempt to shape a city that ultimately improves the lives of its residents.

Panama City is the capital of the Republic of Panama and serves as bridge between North and South America. In addition to this, the country is renowned for its 48-mile canal that bisects the Central American nation and is a key facilitator of global trade. However, now the city is aiming to improve land-based connectivity in order to join the smart cities evolution. According to the city's mayor becoming a 'smart city' is much, much more than just developing and introducing technological solutions.

Mayor of Panama, Jose Blandon Figueroa said a city is only truly 'smart' if it can solve the basic problems affecting citizens within the city. He said: "A city is smart if it can solve the basic problems of those living in it, if it guarantees sustainable human development. Having technology, thousands of sensors everywhere and two phones per person, does not make a smart city if all that technology is not focused on ensuring better living conditions for people with equity."

Panama now hosts Central America's first metro system which is currently in the process of being extended and is the first major step in the cities attempt to address its urban congestion problems, but traffic jams a constant theme in everyday life in Panama. The authorities have also installed free wireless internet access points at dozens of bus stops in order to provide tourists with information about the city -this initiative was implemented as part of its smart city program.

The project is a joint venture between city authorities, international bus stop and business JCDecaux and wireless internet provider WIGO which will allow commuters to find out where their nearest bus is and enable them to determine what time it is likely to arrive at. JCDecaux has stated that it firmly believes that connectivity is an essential component in order to build tomorrow's smart cities and it has collaborated with mobile phone networks to allow them to install small cells in its street furniture to improve phone and data networks in dense urban areas.

The Mayor added: "This joint initiative enables us to offer even more services to our citizens, allowing them to stay connected and abreast of general-interest messages from our city government. I am very proud that the capital of Panama is Latin America's first smart city."