Turning Santiago into a Smart City

Smart City Santiago

Anders Broue, a former professor from Denmark, has transformed his life and is now helping Santiago make a digital transformation into a smart city.

Anders Broue met his wife on New Year’s Eve. At the time, of course, he didn’t know she would become his wife. And he didn’t know that his holiday to Chile would set the stage for him moving his life there. And he didn’t know that this short break from his job back in his native Denmark, where he taught communication, arts and humanities at a business college, would end up being a permanent career change.

After his vacation, he would return home — for a time — but this was no ordinary love. Broue decided he had to make it work and moved to a new continent a few months later in August, 2013. But he was not able to continue in teaching in the new country given the small problem that he didn’t speak any Spanish. “I would have to give up my vocation in Denmark and start fresh in Chile,” said Broue.

He needed something new, and like many in Latin America, his English proficiency is what brought him to the IT industry. A local firm realized that his language skills could be a great asset to help them sell their services to clients in the United States, Canada, and Australia. And that’s how Broue began selling business intelligence and data analytics solutions to companies in the mining industry while admittedly “knowing nothing about mining.”

smart city anders broue
Anders Broue, a senior executive, professor and expat

Despite those limitations, he was good. So he was soon also pitching services to the electricity generation and telecom sectors, which were even more focused on the ICT world. The former professor was becoming an expert, discussing high-level concepts like the Cloud, Big Data, mobility, and all types of IT solutions with pros who had been knee deep in the tech world their whole life.

With a new network and skill set, he soon made a major move, getting contracted by Chile Digital, which has its office in Santiago and hosts events including the major Congreso Latinoamericano de Negocios y Tecnologia Chile Digital. The organization was about to host a major conference on Cloud, Big Data, and IT, and his new objective became engaging speakers and sponsors for the event. It was a vast success and has become one of the largest tech events on the continent, and Broue’s role in that triumph led to a new path in which he is helping to digitize the capital. “The government is trying to convert Santiago into a smart city,” he said.

The plan to make Santiago a smart city includes the big and the small. Some things are simple, like digitizing the lights and power levels in government buildings to adjust to to demand levels. As the city becomes increasingly connected, such processes will become the norm, turning the city into a balanced ecosystem capable of solving its own loose ends. Officials want to, for example, ensure the power grid in Santiago can sense earthquakes and switch off as they hit — then re-boot itself automatically after the threat has passed. They want street lights that can adapt to traffic conditions. That want citizens to be able to use cell phone to see which parking lots have vacancies and potentially reserve a spot for when they arrive an hour later.

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The private sector is key to all this, and Chile Digital is one organization that is helping Chile realize its smart city dream, with Broue now working with companies in the capital to make that digital transformation. “What we do is we try to help companies internally to educate executives to manage some of these new digital tools that are necessary,” said Broue.

One component he sees as critical is showing leaders that they can’t just try to keep up with the latest and greatest tech trends, but that they must use the new tools to advance their company’s mission. “The idea really is to align corporate strategies with actual capacities inside the company on an executive level,” he said. “We do that by providing training, digital marketing, social media, innovation, and ICT.”

As more and more companies start to really understand what this digital transformation is all about, it is helping Santiago become more of the type of smart, modern city that the government wants to see. “As companies are forced to become smarter in terms of incorporating the digital realities, executives also need to become smart executives,” he said. “We try to work in accordance with this movement that is being implemented on the national level.”

In many ways, his own journey — from professor to expat to husband to tech expert to, most recently, father after his first son was born in October — shows just how quickly a major transformation can happen. A few years ago, most of the tech-world terms he now throws around casually and adeptly, in two languages, couldn’t have been more foreign to him.

He still believes he has a lot to learn about technology, however, and is quick to tell you that he doesn’t know it all. But the proud father is certain about at least two things: He knows he landed in a great field, and he knows that the night he met his wife, a beautiful Chilean evening when 2012 became 2013, was the happiest New Year of all.

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