This month on the ‘Women In Shared Mobility’ series, our CEO Sandra Phillips interviewed Alejandra Labarca, the FOUNDER of BlockBIM and EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Smartcity Hub in Chile.
Alejandra began her career working in the public sector but now focuses her attention on smart city innovations after her training at the Fraunhofer institute in Chile. She is the founder of Smart City Hub in Valparaíso and works towards building cities of future. She is also exploring the possibilities of blockchain in connected and smart cities and currently has a few ventures in that space, including a consulting agency.
Women in Shared Mobility: thoughts on smart cities, shared mobility and blockchain Technology
Alejandra Labarca, the FOUNDER of BlockBIM and EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR Smartcity hub, chile
Sandra Phillips, chief executive officer, movmi
Tell us a bit about who you are and what you do
I’m Alejandra, I live in Chile, I use to work for the public sector for a while but since 2012 I’ve worked in the smart city domain. I was trained by the Fraunhofer institute in Chile. It was like I saw the light when I discovered smart cities. I founded a smart city hub here in Chile and I’m now working on trying to fix cities and to transform them into something smarter and healthier for everybody. I’m also exploring the blockchain domain now and have a few ventures in that space. I have a consulting enterprise and also founded Smart City Hub here in Valparaíso to work on smart city projects I’ve been thinking about for many years.
1. In your opinion, tell us how smart cities and the shared mobility movement should work together?
As an economist and with the social spirit I have, I think that most important thing smart cities should have are smart ways to do things for its people. People are at the centre, without them, there is no point to what we do. How are we going to use technologies and systems to facilitate the lives of people and help them in their everyday tasks. Each time you leave the house to go to the bank or office or catch the bus, there are so many problems at street level. The city must respond to the needs of the people in every sense, everywhere, and we should collaborate for that purpose.
2. What are the transportation challenges in a small city like Valparaíso or Viña del Mar?
The first thing that is happening here, and probably in a lot of places, is an absence of systems and regulations – not adapting these to improve a problem. Anytime you have a disruptive technology to improve a problem, you have an issue with regulations that won’t cover it. We’ve had problems with Uber regulations and we are discussing that but we also don’t have the data to discuss it further.
Another problem is people and their inertia. Working and living in a way that they are used to. Trying to keep the status quo – which is difficult. This is the current cultural, political and legal framework.
Also, the current infrastructure is old, and has been designed mainly for private vehicles. A lot of public transportation is also operated by private companies. You should have a public system that provides good services for the people – but they don’t have the right incentives at present, which is an economic problem.
3. What do we have to do to bring shared mobility and the smart city movements to a wider audience?
You have to prove and test. You have to go to the streets. You have to ask the local municipalities to give you an area or a couple of blocks to test. You have to implement the urban tactics you know, for example, taking private cars away. Then people will want to go to that area when they hear how good the transport is – how amazing it is. They will then learn what exactly happened to make this a reality. Then you have to start measuring the impact.
If you test and autonomous car in a place where there are a lot of elderly people living and take them a few blocks away to a shop, they will probably love that, but you have to test it first, otherwise people will not know what it is or how it works.
4. What can shared mobility learn from the smart city and blockchain movement?
You have to remember the bigger environment around you, at the same time or before you implement technology system into a city. You also have to educate people on your position and dedicate time to that. I have been trying to put smart parking here and its a super easy system, but i’ve had a lot of bureaucratic problems with the local municipality.
With regards to blockchain, it has a lot of potential to measure and trace and help facilitate a shared mobility system. It should start with identity, then you will be able to use a different mode – and with your identity you will be able to pay at the end of the month the MaaS bill and keep track of whichever modes you have used the most for example. There is a lot of potential with blockchain.
5. Is there anything THAT smaller cities should take away?
They need a lot of mobility and they are a very good place to test anything. Everything is more controlled, you have the people around. You’re going to be more visible in the local papers and they are going to be happy with a new system. All the conditions here to go there and the people desperately need it. I don’t think it will be easy but it is possible. If you don’t have the mayor’s will and leadership to implement a strategy or system, you have to start somewhere and use your connections and network to get where you need to be. At Smart City Hub we are working on the cities. We have dialogs once a month in order to educate and test pilots. This is something we are doing right now and I invite you to be part of this sometime and to test what you are doing there or to see if it something you can test.
What are your thoughts on the developments in shared mobility that occurred over 2018 and what is to be expected for next year’s developments? What about the future implementation of shared mobility within rural areas? If you would like to be interviewed or to nominate a woman working in Shared Mobility for our next series, get in touch with us here.