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Territorio Data 4: The intelligence of territories from data culture​

By: Marco Peres, Director of the Observatory of society, government and information technologies - Externado de Colombia University

*The articles that are published in this section are academic publications whose ownership belongs to their authors and do not imply the assignment of patrimonial rights of author in favor of the CAP4CITY Project, its members or third parties.

Abstract- ICTs improve the performance of public administration processes and the companies and the functioning of the city systems, but until now they have managed to change the minds of citizens and the processes of companies 10/10/2018 Territory Data 4: The intelligence of the territory from the culture of data (1) so that both adopt responsible and rational behaviors with the consumption of natural resources. If the application of the concept of intelligent city does not achieve avoid or mitigate that cities remain the main source of problems environmental and social aspects of the planet, must be revised, modified or replaced for one that is more realistic and effective. Our proposal is to build intelligence of the territory from the origin of life: nature.

Local governments and city leaders must today take stock of the progress and results to convert cities – of all sizes – into smart and sustainable territories, taking into account the recent reports – very worrying – from different experts and organizations about the effects of change climate change, the deterioration of the environment and the increasing consumption of resources natural of the planet (1).

The limitation of the concept of intelligent city is the same that integrates the electronic government concept If the application of the concept of smart and sustainable city, fails to prevent or mitigate that cities continue to be the main source of medium problems environmental and social issues of the world, should be reviewed as soon as possible and modified or replace it with one that is more realistic, applicable and effective.

The limitation of the concept of intelligent city is the same that integrates the concept of electronic government: the search through Information Technologies and Communications of efficiency in the operation of the government, without addressing the causes of the structural problems of public administration and the challenges environmental, social and economic aspects of the territories. ICTs allow improving the performance of public administration and business processes and the functioning of the city systems, but so far they have not managed to change the minds of the citizens and the processes of the companies so that both adopt responsible and rational behaviors with the consumption of natural resources.

The so-called paperless office is an example of the failure of ICT as a tool central to the change in government management, despite the fact that some authors point that the consumption of paper in the world reached its maximum level of consumption in 2013 (2). In Latin America and the Caribbean, paper consumption in government and companies grows, while the total area of forests decreases (3). The so-called Open Government also does not seem to be on the path of efficiency with few transformations in the State. Open Data does not achieve the results promised, to the extent that the priority data opened by the Administrations Public are those linked to savings of money or time but not the data that are connected to the deterioration of the ecosystems that support the operation of cities, or data on the habits that citizens must adopt to avoid be causing irreversible damage in nature. The same happens with the Open Action, or the use of social networks by citizens to interact with the government. Citizens are active on Twitter and Facebook, but governments they are silent and dilettantes before the avalanche of data.

Citizens are active on Twitter and Facebook, but governments are silent and dilettantes before the avalanche of data In this context, new concepts of city that integrate solutions have emerged more comprehensive and that may be more in line with the results we expect from the management of the territories and urban centers in the era of climate change.

This is the case of generative city or garden city (4), which is defined as the city that personalize the citizen’s experience and create conditions so that all actors of the city put all their creative potential at the service of more ambitious, collective and uplifting, such as the protection of the environment, development of the collaborative economy, the creation of digital ecosystems or the application of citizen sciences for urbanites to act as scientists.

Another relevant concept, to transcend the concept of smart city, is the biomimicry or biomimicry (5), which allows cities to integrate intelligence of nature for the design and management of urban infrastructure and to solve environmental problems (6). This is the case of the city of Abuja in Nigeria, which was designed to be in harmony with nature – (7).

The limited scope of the notion of Smart City

In this section of the article we will review the limitations of the concept of city intelligent that explain the scarce results generated by its application. The territories and smart cities can be understood as those that promote innovation, sustainable development, and the integration of their critical subsystems, based on the interaction between people, ICTs and their environment. Territories and smart cities are a vision of what they can become territories and cities through the use of technology and collective intelligence, in response to the challenges and opportunities of today’s world, characterized by population growth and social inequality, the urban expansion, climate change, environmental deterioration, globalization and knowledge-based economies (8).

The following graph represents what is an intelligent territory or city according to with the aforementioned concept. As you can see, intelligent territory is composed of critical sectors or subsystems integrated and interconnected by ICT, which have innovation and sustainability as the axis of articulation.

Linear Concept of Territory and City

Source: Territory and Smart Cities Guide. The Externado University of Colombia. 2013

 In other words, the smart city is a path to the city that is sustainable from the environmental, social and economic point of view. However, the The sustainability of cities is a vague concept that is repeatedly cited, which It has no scientific basis and is impractical because it is thought to meet the current and future needs of the human species and not the needs of the other species that occupy the territories (9).

For those responsible for planning and managing cities, living species different from man – it is estimated that there are more than 10 million on the planet earth of plant and animal species – are generally dispensable and are not center of your concerns. This partial and anthropocentric view (10) of the territories, has turned cities into places designed and ordered for the human consumption and not to care for or conserve nature. Most of the 10/10/2018 Territory Data 4: The intelligence of the territory from the culture of data (1) cities are planned for consumption and business logistics and not for preserve the green and natural spaces of the periphery, which are the ones that support their operation.

Population, Consumption and Medium

Environment in the Cities In this context, we must ask ourselves if a territory can be sustainable in the which there are no limits – social, cultural and legal – for companies and citizens consume water, energy and food and if it can be sustainable a territory in which there is no detailed inventory of the natural resources that They support your operation. The answers to these questions are negative, because I do not know can sustain the unsustainable or what is not accounted for. However and despite of its lack of rigor and viability, the concept of sustainability is the reference main betting such as the new global urban agenda (11 12) and the Objectives of Sustainable Development ODS (13).

In conclusion, the sustainability of the territory with the focus on achieving savings in the management of water, energy and waste, ends up being an accounting record of an intangible that ceases to be relevant in the finances and accounts of the city when politicians and officials prioritize the market against the need to protect environment. If water runs out of cities, life ends humans and other species. It is obvious that it is necessary to take care of every drop of water.

This fundamental goal of the city is not going to be achieved with the weak concept of sustainability The conservation and protection of nature in the cities, not their sustainability. Sustainability is a cosmetic and frivolous way to continue justifying population growth in cities and exploitation without truce of the environment.

A new concept of Intelligence of the Territories and Cities

The intelligent city must endow the urban and rural territory with attributes of life. The various environmental disasters – floods, droughts, etc. – and pollution of air, rivers and aquifers are some of the problems generated by a development urban that is not aligned with the intelligence of nature and that is destroying the support of our well-being. As Prashant Dhawan points out, that does not It is intelligent and we can not continue doing it. An anthropocentric vision of the territory has turned the city into a place designed and ordered only for human consumption The intelligence of the territory must be connected with the origin of life: nature. The following are some arguments that justify the importance of nature for the design, planning and management of cities (14): 

 􀀀 “Cities are a relatively new creation of man; the forests and jungles have existed for millions of years after having faced the same environmental challenges as a city located in the same region biological.

􀀀 The ecosystem of forests and jungles are composed of a great diversity of integrated lifestyles through interconnected and interdependent networks, but highly decentralized and autonomous because every way of life has their own processes and ways of adaptation.

􀀀 This interdependence implies that all the life of the forests and jungles is connected and the biosphere is a perfect, interdependent and interconnected, which has no fixed limits or silos. A city only occupies one area defined by administrative control, of a continuous and undivided biosphere.

This implies that the limits of the city must be seen with the purpose of connect with the largest natural network, and the biosphere to which it belongs.

􀀀 The thinking of the planners of the territory must pass from a linear, mechanistic and reductionist about the functioning of cities to a thinking that understands the evolutionary and active interdependence between nature and urban spaces.

􀀀 The planners of the territory must have technical knowledge and of the ecosystems and on the ground on which the cities and ensure that urban systems are designed in alignment with the existing intrinsic systems of nature. Any urban system that is not aligned with nature, will not be sustainable or will be broken.

The following graph represents what would be a smart territory or city starting of integrated critical sectors or subsystems, exceeding the linear model and mechanistic and moving to a circular vision of the territory as a living system:

Circular Concept of Territory and City

Source: Own elaboration based on the model defined by Prashant Dhawan .2016.

The smart city must endow the urban and rural territory with attributes of life 

 This concept of territory and smart city allows us to integrate the elements through networks, flows and coevolutionary interdependence, achieving balance and integrity of the system as a living being (15). From this approach that recognizes the creative potential of nature and the limitations of our knowledge about the environmental environment, the intelligence of the territories and cities must be built connecting the current capacities and potential that the actors of the territory possess to channel the efforts and solve the problems they face.

The planners of the territory must understand the evolutionary interdependence and active between nature and urban spaces

The other intelligences or capacities of the territories, which must be connected with the intelligence of nature are: the urban design of cities, the market as organizer of the resources of the economy, the participation of citizens and the ability of technology to make social relations more efficient.

The following graph represents how the five intelligences interact:

Intelligences of the Territory and Cities

Source: self made

 Local governments, nowadays, do not plan or apply in an integral way these five intelligences. The notion of intelligent city has not responded to the question about how to develop, potentiate and connect these intelligences. The The science of data is the way to integrate the five intelligences to achieve that, from the government and the citizens, the territories are viable, innovative and have with more skills and talent to face the environmental, social and current economic and the next decades. As shown in the following graphic, a city solution that integrates the five intelligences is the so-called wheel of Copenhagen or The Copenhagen Wheel, which allows to integrate any bicycle a wheel that stores energy and integrates sensors that collect Environmental information through a mobile application (16):


Currently the cities are planned for consumption and logistics business and not to preserve the green and natural spaces of the periphery or region. This linear and mechanistic approach explains the causes of climate change, deterioration of the environment and the increasing consumption of the natural resources of the planet. If the application of the smart city concept fails to avoid or mitigate that cities continue to be the main source of environmental problems and of the planet, should be revised, modified or replaced by one that is more realistic and effective. Our proposal in this short article is to build intelligence of the territory from the origin of life: nature.

By Marco Peres Useche

Director of the Society, Government and Technology Observatory of the Information from the Externado de Colombia University and Territory Director Data . @CulturaData

 1- Yes, I am a climate alarmist. Global warming is a crime against humanity Lawrence Torcello. The Guardian. 2017 Ver en:

2- Doing more with less: the economic lesson of Peak Paper. 2013. Ver en: (

3- Productos forestales en América Latina: perspectivas para el año 2020. FAO. Ver en:

 4-Generative Cities: The Future of Urban Intelligence. Parag and Ayesha Khanna. Big Think. 2016. Ver en: (

5- Biomimicry (of bio, life and mimesis, to imitate), also known as biomimetics or biomimicry, is the science that studies nature as a source of inspiration of new innovative technologies, to solve those human problems that nature has solved, through systems models (mechanics), or processes (chemistry), and / or elements that imitate or are inspired by it. Biomimicry is the term most used in scientific literature and engineering to refer to the process of understand and apply to human problems, solutions coming from nature in form of biological principles, biomaterials, or of any other nature. The nature, the universe, brings to the human being millions of years of advantage in any field. That is why it is more advantageous to copy it than to try to overcome it, as it is the case of Kevlar, comparable to biotejidos like the silk of spider. Other simple example, is the tractor unit of certain high-speed trains whose shape It is aerodynamic coming from the shape of the head of a certain species of ducks. Source. Wikipedia.

 6- What is a ‘Smart’ City….if not Biomimicry ?. Prashant Dhawan. 2016

 7- Abuja City design: Biomimicry principles applied to the design of a new city in Nigeria. See at (

8-Territory and Smart Cities Guide. University extership of Colombia. Pages 30 and 31. 2013

 9- According to the Inter-American Development Bank, a sustainable city understood as one that offers a high quality of life to its inhabitants, which reduces its impact on the natural environment and that it has a local government with fiscal and administrative capacity to maintain its economic growth and to carry out its urban functions with broad citizen participation.

 From this orientation, a sustainable city must stand out in four dimensions:

Regarding the dimension of environmental sustainability and climate change, a sustainable city must attend as a priority the management of resources natural resources, mitigation of greenhouse gases and other forms of pollution. It must also address mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Regarding the dimension of sustainable urban development, a sustainable city must control their growth and promote the provision of adequate habitat for its citizens, in addition to promoting transport and urban mobility sustainable.

Regarding the dimension of economic and social sustainability, a city sustainable development must promote local economic development and the supply of quality social services. Likewise, the city must promote levels adequate citizen security.

Finally, in terms of the fiscal dimension, it must advance in the application of adequate mechanisms of good governance, of adequate management of their income and of public spending, as well as adequate management of debt and other fiscal obligations.

10-Anthropocentrism is the doctrine that in the plane of epistemology, situates the human being as a measure of all things, and in that of ethics defends that interests of human beings are those that should receive moral attention by on top of anything else.

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