Guayaquil is advancing quickly towards becoming one of the first digital cities in Latin America. With a budget of some $2.5 million, the local authority is keen to make internet connection a public service as important as running water and electricity. These are the key aims behind a project to offer completely free internet coverage at specific hot spots throughout the city: particularly education and tourist centers. The project “Guayaquil, a digital city”, took off two years ago in three schools, three universities and two main tourist areas within the city: the Parque Lineal and the Malecón Simón Bolívar. “This is a social investment that we cannot afford to ignore”, says the Mayor, Jaime Nebot Saadi.
The “intelligent communities” – be they cities, provinces or regions – are those that consider the internet as an essential public service. Where in the past ports, train stations, airports and roads were built, today the authorities are supporting information and broadband technologies to assure a prosperous future. In the United States, cities like Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco have put into place various plans to extend internet access to all parts of their urban areas. In Europe, the Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë, wants his city to become the most connected in the world with free wireless network coverage. Delanoë believes the benefits for the business community and tourism will far outweigh the costs. In Latin America the only place that can today be considered as an “intelligent community” is the Brazilian city Piraí, which has a population of 23,000 people and is 70 kilometers from Río de Janeiro. Guayaquil, being the biggest city in Ecuador, has the opportunity to become the first large intelligent city in Latin America.
|“The aim is to have all of Guayaquil connected to the internet. This program, like all others, is ongoing”|
Students and the local community in Guayaquil will not be the only people to benefit from such a project. Tourists and executives of international companies will also make use of the free network access.
The international image of the city will also grow as it becomes one of the first intelligent communities in Latin America. City Hall and the Educate Foundation have also promoted a competition called “Painting Walls” where students have to show their artistic talents using the phrase “Guayaquil, a technological city” in a bid to help position the city as an intelligent community among locals.
The idea is to create a series of hot spots across the city with WiFi connection so that more than 2 million people can surf the web free of charge. In the initial phase of the project, launched at the end of 2011, City Hall invested $130,000 to provide network access at eight separate points in the city.
The short and mid-term plan is for wireless and in some cases fiber optics to be in place in the José Joaquín de Olmedo Airport, the land terminal and in the Simón Bolívar Convention Centre. “We will continue to push the system so we reach all the universities, schools, tourist spots and popular areas of the city,” claims Nebot. In the state university alone, more than 84,000 students are already benefiting from wireless networks. Connectivity will be a free service with some restrictions on certain pages such as those containing pornography, violence or weapons, which will be blocked in attempt to protect younger users. The project also includes a portal with educational subjects and there will be some limits placed on time and the information downloaded. The local authority wants to underline the ease of use of the project and the only requirement to take part is that the computer used has access to WiFi.