4.3 Rio De Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest city, with a population of over 6 million people. Rio is a lively, flamboyant city but, like many large cities, it faces problems such as crime, transport and ageing infrastructure. Being located just above sea level, the city is vulnerable to floods and landslides – natural disasters that are expected to increase with climate change. The city’s slum areas (favelas) are mostly built along the sides of the mountains so are particularly prone to natural disasters (UNICEF, 2012). Heavy rains have caused hundreds of casualties and destroyed homes.
To address these issues, and in preparation for hosting both the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games, Rio’s mayor, Eduardo Paes, commissioned a City Operations Centre. It was designed by IBM and opened in 2010. The centre co-ordinates the activities of more than 300 municipal and state departments, plus private utility and transportation companies, integrating them into a single digital command-and-control system (Hamm, 2012).
Cameras send information back to the control centre’s hundreds of screens that show what is happening across the city in real time, and data analytics software is used to predict where traffic will flow, where accidents may happen and when flooding might hit. The centre uses a weather and flood forecasting program that predicts emergencies up to two days ahead of time. So the city can now position police, fire and rescue teams close to where problems are likely to occur, close off streets and use sirens to alert people to the danger, and residents can also sign up to receive messages to their mobile phones. Citizens can access the cameras to see what’s happening across the city.
However, this is not the only smart technology Rio is using. In stark contrast to the expensive City Operations Centre, in the favelas teenagers have been using kites and mobile technology to map the favelas’ social and environmental risks and to improve the lives of children and families in their communities (UNICEF, 2012). They fly kites with mobile phones attached and take photos of risks such as piles of rubbish, dangerous spots on paths and hazardous electricity cables. The photos are then tagged on a digital map, and the issues are sorted by type and urgency of response required (UNICEF, 2015). The UNICEF project is supported by the Municipality of Rio, the Municipal Secretariat of Health and Civil Defense, and a local organisation, CEDAPS (Centro de Promoção da Saúde).
You can find out more about Rio’s kite-flying project and the City Operations Centre, including local people’s views, in a BBC article and video:.