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This tiny European nation wants to become the world’s first ‘smart country’

Only 77,000 people live there, but this Pyrenean principality is having a big influence on the responsive urban environments of tomorrow.

Its population of 77,000 people is spread across just 180 square miles, but Andorra – the tiny mountain nation wedged between France and Spain – is directly influencing what the cities of tomorrow will look like.  

That’s because researchers at MIT Media Lab’s City Science Initiative use it as a “living lab” to test things like shared-use autonomous cars and optimum ratios of homes and offices. And because so many schemes have been tested there, Andorra has aspirations of becoming the planet’s first ‘smart country’.

Among the projects is CityScope Andorra, a model that enables urban planners and community members to interactively test scenarios like how many parks to include, and whether to permit only car-share services over private vehicles.

Kent Larson, the City Science Initiative’s director, said such schemes will determine Andorra’s “innovation potential”, which he defined as “the probability of creative collisions that can be estimated from the density and mix of people with diverse experiences who have opportunities to exchange ideas.” 

“Urban innovation that is focused on human interaction must be tested in a real-world context,” he added. “Working in Andorra is a fantastic opportunity. In such a tiny country, we can work directly with the ministers, policy decisions can be made rapidly and efficiently, and we have access to mobile and energy data for the entire country to help us understand the complex behaviours of residents and tourists.”