Text and Interview by Laura Negro

“Synergies” is a word often heard in the topics of entrepreneurism and “Smart Cities”, two of our work fields at Agencia de Innovación y Desarrollo Económico de Valladolid. Being so regularly heard in a variety of contexts and paired to other “trendy” words, it loses its power and credibility. Yet, this Thursday, moments before starting the 5TH Café Smartcitizen edition, we’ve tried to restore it its full power.

The proposition was: given that Vitor Pereira,  noted Portuguese communicator of the “smart” concept, was our guest at #cafesmart, we’ve asked the collaboration of the participants of Lanzadera de Mujeres de Valladolid (a project taken on by Fundación Santa María la Real, housed in our headquarters)  to interview him. The coordinator, Noelia Novo, always in search of new cooperations, suggested Laura Negro, the most qualified in communications, to conduct the interview. The end result was the expression of a critical voice we found of value to share here in the blog.


“With no smart people, there are no smart cities”

He has a curriculum filled with references from different countries about “smart cities” related events. We’re talking about Vítor Pereira, director of the creative agency Conteúdo Chave, collaborator in i-Ambiente and an ambassador of Smart City Business Institute (SCBI) in Portugal who was recently awarded with the “Personalidade Smart Cities Live 2015” prize for his vast work in the sector.

In the 16th of April, he visited the de Innovación y Desarrollo Económico de Valladolid headquarters to attend the 5th edition of Café Smartcitizen. This an event of started by Fernando Burgos (@ditelnet (link is external)), collaborator in Ayuntamiento de Valladolid in matters of innovation, that works as a meeting point for the “Smart Citizens” in our town. Before the meeting, the expert has outlined the key points of the current situation of “Smart Cities” in Europe and Spain.


His best definition of Smart Cities is…

It is all in such a boiling point that there is no longer a possible definition such as the one there was before 2007. Before, the term “Smart Cities” was related to the installation of technology, computation and digital information… but it has changed. Now there is a full convergence of these sectors. All cities are implementing the use of intelligence as a motor to its economic development. Therefore, anything that has to do with economy, progress, sustainability, creativity, humanity, education, health… is part of the current philosophy of Smart Cities.


In what way can citizens contribute to the development of Smart Cities?

With no smart people, there are no smart cities. These days, there are two well differentiated chains of work. The first is taking place in Northern America, where citizens tend to a bigger usage of technology and the internet.   On the other hand, in countries like India and China with major problems in human and social development, other types of projects are implemented. In Europe, we combine both chains. The good news for citizens is that the instituons have come to realize that it’s impossible to take it all on by themselves and that it is crucial for citizens to participate.

10 years ago, cities, meaning to convert to digital, invested great amounts of money into complicated equipments that lead to no positive results. Nowadays, unlike before, better results are achieved by small interventions lead on by citizen’s participation in actions of crowdsourcing, with no money spent.


Do you think it is necessary for institutions to be more involved in spreading out the idea of “Smart Cities”?

I most certainly do. Communication is precisely a weak point. Cities should not utilize marketing policies as it makes it seem as they are trying to deceive people.  In opposite, a candid, honest, face-to-face type of communication should be used with citizens. The Crisis is a turning point and has led people to get more into this kind of projects and to refuse to invest in things that won’t lead to development related to employment, health… The goal is to try to attain a balance based in communication with citizens.


What about companies? How can they put in to that development?

As it goes for citizens, companies have before them a great opportunity. Big companies don’t hire new works and institutions don’t offer public employment. For these reasons, people have to create other means which leads to a loud of talent and people developing their own projects at their own risk.


What is the model of the ideal city?

The ideal model has to be based on a fundamental matter: creativity. Creative people are the engine to economic development. Young people need a creative education that enables them to dream and picture themselves in other situations. Without establishing these creative values we would be raising workers such as those of the early 20th century factories.


What is your opinion on the “Smart City” related projects lead on by the Ayuntamaiento de Valladodid?

I like Vallodid. It is doing what it is supposed to be done in a city: creating new projects that can really be called “Smart”. Valladodid , together with Santander, was one f the first cities in Spain that had the vision and projection of creating an innovation agency to develop intelligence and creativity related projects, with people who really know what they are doing. That is something amazing and of assured success.


You were recently awarded with the “Personalidad SmartCities Live 2015” prize in Portugal. What are the main differences in the “Smart” implantation between your country and Portugal?

The award was a surprise, mainly because I consider myself more of a critic than an enthusiast of this philosophy, being that I highlight more its negative than its positive aspects. Worldwide, everything that is related to “Smart Cities”, is focusing in big cities with millions of inhabitants.  The problems in these cities are raised by the untamed cloud of people searching for new opportunities. Sustainability must be reached based on intelligence, avoiding the desertification of small towns. The rural world is, such in Portugal as in Spain, a key part of reaching sustainability. It is necessary to find clever ways to avoid this exodus. It is something of utter urgency in countries like ours.


“Smart Cities” … challenge or opportunity?

Definitely, opportunity. Achieving the set goals must be our focus, forgetting political games. But… it is also a double challenge as it requires citizens to oppose to the institutions that rule them and institutions to develop citizen oriented projects in an open and clear way.

This week, Vítor Pereira has shared in his blog, i.ambientCITIES, his visit to Valladodid. Here we leave you with the post of his experience at #cafesmart and his endearing words to the citizens and the agency, hoping that he keeps his promise to come back.


Post translated from the original in Spanish