Cuenca takes the first steps to become a ‘digital city’ but prices for top-of-the-line imported equipment are among the highest in the world
A committee of city officials and representatives of 23 public and private institutions met Monday to begin the process to make Cuenca a “digital city.”
According to Cuenca technology chief Ronnie Araneda, the project aims at improving the quality of life by making all forms of communication easier, creating digital bill-paying options, and allowing citizen interaction with public services and officials.
“Our goal is to make Cuenca more inclusive and sustainable through the use of digital automation,” Araneda said. “This involves the private sector that sells products and provides services as well as public entities such as the government, utilities, schools and universities,” he said. Ultimately, Araneda said, the plan will put citizens in direct contact with government so they can access meetings and download policy information in real time.
Among the city’s digital plans is one to greatly expand public Wifi coverage. “This is part of the overall concept and will broaden access to the Internet for all residents wherever they are in the city.”
The digital city designation is granted by the United Nations technology office.
Meanwhile, prices for high-end cell phones are among the highest in the world, according to a recent survey. The high costs are the result of recent surcharges that the government added to existing import fees as well as taxes, such as the national 12% IVA.
A top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S6 costs $1,195 in Cuenca compared to $785 in the U.S., while an iPhone 6 that runs $650 in the U.S. costs $1,210 in Cuenca. In addition to high import taxes, the government also limits the number of phones that can be imported.
By contrast, smart phones made by Cuenca’s three high-tech firms can be purchased for less than $200.