Chile’s pollution problems has led to green startups

Santiago de Chile is an understatedly cool city. Sure, it doesn’t have the classical buildings of Buenos Aires or the ageless allure of Rio, but what’s lacking in historic charm is made up for with a modernity that achieves being progressive yet unpretentious. This is especially true of its tech, an industry where Santiago’s innovations aren’t just making waves in South America, but are attracting some serious global attention.

And the best thing about Santiago’s tech? Much of it is seems pretty set on making the world just that bit better to live in.

Santiago on an unusually smogless morning.Creative ideas are often inspired by local problems, and the Chilean capital isn’t without its flaws. Like most of its regional counterparts, Santiago is polluted. This is largely caused by an excessive amount of car fumes which get trapped above the city, resulting in an almost permanent layer of smog. Poor air quality, coupled with limited green spaces and, at times, and an excessive amount of waste on the streets, seriously threatens living standards. So, how is tech tackling the urban grime?

In a move to overcome the city’s reliance on cars, an urban cycling movement is growing. Local councils have doubled efforts to build bike paths, but heavy traffic and lack of infrastructure still makes cycling difficult and, at times, dangerous. Iván Páez Mora is Santiago-based developer who is working on his dream to create a city where his children can safely ride their bikes to kindergarten.

He believes this can be achieved by encouraging more people to start cycling. “[T]hen drivers will be more aware of cyclists, and know how to behave when they encounter them,” he says. “So, that automatically increases safety. With safety, more people will cycle.” This then drives a demand for better infrastructure, he explains, which encourages governments to invest in urban cycling as a viable form of transportation.

To get people on their bikes, Páez Mora launched the app Kappo, a real-time biking game, in 2014. The idea was motivated the gaming trends at the time: “Around four years ago, there was constant news about Candy Crush, Farmville, Angry Birds… that millions of people were devoting hours of their time to playing these games” he says. “I thought of that if all these people spent these hours on their bike instead, the world would be totally different.”