Put in the most elementary way: reform is a change in form; whereas, revolution implies a change in evolution. At this time, humanity has had to witness the rise of the so-called “Fourth Industrial Revolution” (or “Revolution 4.0”), a name that comes from the repercussions of high-tech initiatives of the German government started in 2013 to radically transform its productive processes (BBC, 2016).
Previously, the world experienced three similar processes of huge transformations: the first, between 1760 and 1830, replaced manual production with mechanized one; the second, around 1850, shone with the lights of electricity and mass manufacturing; and, the third, in the middle of the 20th century, brought the computer, electronics and information and communication technologies.
This new wave not only stands out for the speed of change but also for its depth. In this regard, the director and founder of the World Economic Forum, Klaus Schwab (2016), points out that “Apart from speed and breadth, the fourth industrial revolution is unique due to the increasing harmonization and integration of many different disciplines and discoveries. Tangible innovations as a result of the interdependencies between different technologies ceased to be science fiction ”(p. 15).
To clarify this phenomenon, Schwab adds that: “The fourth industrial revolution, however, is not only about smart and connected machines and systems. Its scope is much wider. Occurring simultaneously are waves of further breakthroughs in areas ranging from gene sequencing to nanotechnology, from renewables to quantum computing. It is the fusion of these technologies and their interaction across the physical, digital and biological domains that make the fourth industrial revolution fundamentally different from previous revolutions. “(p.12).
By contrast, it should be noted that this revolution has the potential to disappear 15 million jobs in the coming years, counting only those in developed countries (BBC, 2016). In addition, we must not lose sight of the fact that there is still extreme poverty, marginality and social exclusion in society.
To exemplify, if only the 10 largest and most populated cities in Latin America are considered, they concentrate around 20% of the total population and their Gross Domestic Product per capita is on average 2.75 times greater than the regional one1; and it is most likely, half of the Latin American population, to whom Internet has not yet reached2, are living far from these kind of geographical areas or in its periphery.
Certainly, this revolution is full of promises of better days, particularly at the local level; but to achieve this, a smart Latin American city will be the one that, in addition to adopting technologies of the fourth industrial revolution, successfully confronts “technological Darwinism”, based on the precept that: “those who do not adapt to the changes that technology imposes on society, they will not survive. ”
Schwab K. (2016). The fourth industrial revolution. Madrid: Debate.
BBC (2016). What is the fourth industrial revolution and why should we worry? At www.bbc.com/world. October 12, 2016.
1 Own calculations based on data contained in: Sawe “Biggest Cities In Latin America.” WorldAtlas, Apr. 25, 2017, worldatlas.com/articles/which-are-the-biggest-cities-of-latin-america.htm and https://estadisticas.cepal.org/cepalstat/Perfil_Regional_Economico.html?idioma= spanish
2Based on IADB (2019). MOOC Challenges and opportunities in the digital economy through EDX
Xavier Sanchez is an Ecuadorian economist. He studied National Defense and International Economic Relations in Argentina. Analyzing the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution applied to military industry and national defense, he landed in the “smart cities”. Nevertheless, his passion for cities and, especially, for Quito City is due to the fact that he began his working life at the capital city’s municipal administration, to which, after having made a long journey in several governmental and private organizations, he returned to work a short time ago.
Do you want to know more about this series of articles?
My name is Xavier, I am Latacungueño, which means I was born in Latacunga, a small town in the middle of the Andean mountains of Ecuador. When I was seventeen, I moved to Quito with my family, my parents being willing to give their children access to a better education. A quite common move in Latin American countries, where migration to large cities occurs permanently due to the lack, or sometimes, bad quality of services in most of its geographies.
At the beginning of the year, I was studying the effects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution applied to military industry and national defense when, suddenly, driven by the same interest in technologies, I started the IGLUS MOOC about Smart Cities. I liked its format, the dynamism of Prof. Finger and the topic filled me with passion. So, I was already writing a case study without realizing it, which the IGLUS team published few weeks ago.
Another great opportunity was recently given to me: writing a series of blog posts, to be published every two weeks, about cities, their challenges and the capacity of digital technologies to make them more efficient, resilient, human and inclusive. Through a Latin American perspective, I will describe the way those technologies are articulated to improve infrastructure and create new and better services for citizens.