Greetings from Ecuador

02 October 2013 | Kathryn Willson, Director, Cities Solutions, Microsoft Corporation

Hola from Quito, Ecuador! Microsoft teams from across Latin America and Redmond, Washington converged on Quito, Ecuador, September 24th- 26th to join city mayors and companies from across Spain and Latin America at the XIV Encuentro Iberoamericano de Ciudades Digitales—translated as the 14th Ibero-American Meeting of Digital Cities.  Microsoft is excited to have had this important event in this unique city as a backdrop against which we could formally launch our Microsoft CityNext initiative in Latin America.  

Quito is an amazing city with a rich history.  Established in 1534, nestled 2,850 meters high 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, one notices very quickly that moving around the city is an adventure in itself.  Because the topography has dictated the city as very long and narrow, automobile and bus traffic is quite concentrated.  I was fortunate to have local taxi drivers and a tour guide named Edison who knew how to navigate the sea of people and vehicles that fill the streets. Nothing beats having partners with local expertise! 

One of the things that really struck me about Quito is the enormous effort that the current and former mayors have made to restore neighborhoods that have suffered from crime or disrepair.  I walked through Calle La Ronda and the historical Spanish colonial district, where my guide explained how these streets had been overrun by gangs of pickpockets, that families had vacated the beautiful homes, and that the stench and lack of security had driven tourists away.  My guide explained how the mayor decided to take back his city.  He sent the police into the district and cleared out all of the pickpockets and black marketeers, and invested in restoring the buildings and streets to their former glory.  Now this district boasts beautifully painted buildings, balconies filled with flowers, colorful flags, games such as hopscotch for kids young and old, restaurants and shops, and a bustling night life.

And the city shows its pride in this work.  Posters proclaim their progress and artwork makes it clear that the streets belong to the people, not the criminals.  Quito is as proud of this restoration as they are of their many stunning cathedrals and government buildings that have achieved inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

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

Have a comment or opinion on this post? Let me know @Microsoft_Gov. Or e-mail us at

Kathryn Willson
Director, Cities Solutions, Microsoft Corporation

About the Author

Kathryn Willson | Director, Cities Solutions, Microsoft Corporation

Kathryn is responsible for developing Microsoft’s worldwide marketing strategy for cities solutions, with particular focus on energy, water, and the built infrastructure. Read more