Greetings from Ecuador

Hola from Quito, Ecuador! Microsoftteams from across Latin America and Redmond, Washington converged on Quito,Ecuador, September 24th- 26th to join city mayors andcompanies from across Spain and Latin America at the XIV Encuentro Iberoamericanode Ciudades Digitales—translated as the 14th Ibero-American Meeting of DigitalCities.  Microsoft is excited to have hadthis important event in this unique city as a backdrop against which we couldformally launch our Microsoft CityNext initiative in Latin America.  

Quito is an amazing city with a rich history.  Established in 1534, nestled 2,850 metershigh in the Andes Mountains, in a long valley between three active volcanoes,Quito has grown to fill the valley, stretching 110 km long and only 7 km wide.  It is now home to more than 2.5 million people.

As a vistor to this energetic city, onenotices very quickly that moving around the city is an adventure initself.  Because the topography hasdictated the city as very long and narrow, automobile and bus traffic is quiteconcentrated.  I was fortunate to havelocal taxi drivers and a tour guide named Edison who knew how to navigate thesea of people and vehicles that fill the streets. Nothing beats having partnerswith local expertise! 

One of the things that really struck meabout Quito is the enormous effort that the current and former mayors have madeto restore neighborhoods that have suffered from crime or disrepair.  I walked through Calle La Ronda and thehistorical Spanish colonial district, where my guide explained how thesestreets had been overrun by gangs of pickpockets, that families had vacated thebeautiful homes, and that the stench and lack of security had driven touristsaway.  My guide explained how the mayordecided to take back his city.  He sentthe police into the district and cleared out all of the pickpockets and blackmarketeers, and invested in restoring the buildings and streets to their formerglory.  Now this district boastsbeautifully painted buildings, balconies filled with flowers, colorful flags,games such as hopscotch for kids young and old, restaurants and shops, and abustling night life.

And the city shows its pride in thiswork.  Posters proclaim their progressand artwork makes it clear that the streets belong to the people, not thecriminals.  Quito is as proud of thisrestoration as they are of their many stunning cathedrals and governmentbuildings that have achieved inclusion on the UNESCO WorldHeritage List.

These themes of restoration and of puttingpeople first came through at the Inaugural Celebration opening the Meeting ofDigital Cities. The celebration was held in the beautiful Centro de ArteContemporaneo, situated on the western slope of the valley overlookingQuito.  This building was first designedas a military hospital in early 1900s. It has since been renovated into a museum for contemporary art.  The building gracefully respects its pastarchitectural splendor as it embraces and celebrates Ecuador’s modernartists.  In this venue, Mr. Pablo Ponce,member of the City’s Board, in the name of the mayor of the Quito MetropolitanDistrict, spoke to the many mayors from across Latin America and Spain of theneed to focus on their people. Attention to the needs of their people should bethe compass that influences their decisions. We agree!  That is what our Microsoft CityNext initiative is all about.

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Kathryn Willson
Director, Cities Solutions, Microsoft Corporation