Natalia Olson-Urtecho: «Disruption means deciding outside the box»

By  | 2019

Can cities become smarter, better places without innovation? The answer seems to be just ‘no’. But what is then at the root of innovation? ‘Disruption’ is the right word. To Natalia Olson-Urtecho, government and innovation expert and former adviser to US President Obama, disruption has led the world to a number of significant improvements in people’s lives – from pushing for new regulations to consolidate civil rights for women. “Disruption means deciding outside the box”, Olson-Urtecho tells us. And adds: “We have had so much innovation because of disruption; when we have decided to do things that have never been done before”.

And does the number of inhabitants matter when it comes to urban innovation? To Olson-Urtecho, huge or small –from hundred thousand to 20 million–, all cities share a basic feature: they are complex systems where collaboration, infrastructure or engagement happen. Therefore, innovation can obviously also be part of all of them. However, according to her, one challenge remains: “Cities today are a little bit old-fashioned in figuring out new technologies and how to use them to their constituency”, she highlights.

To overcome this obstacle, more investment –and disruption– in digital transformation is needed. And this is not only aimed at promoting a better urban management at the government levels per se, but also at effectively connecting urban policy- and decision-making with a better standard of living for citizens. “Technology can help cities to be able to communicate better, to get good data”, Olson-Urtecho points out. “And with good data you have good policies, and you can make better decisions”, she concludes.


Text and Edition by Sergio García Rodríguez, Communications Coordinator – anteverti

Video by Eloy Calvo



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About the authors

Co-Founder and Innovation Officer of The Disruptive Factory and expert in public policies and public engagement | + posts

Natalia Olson-Urtecho is an entrepreneur and recognized expert in government, commercialization of clean technologies, transportation, energy, environmental planning, public engagement, and infrastructure development.

Prior to her current position as founder of InfraTechh21 and Co-Founder of The Disruptive Factory, she was appointed by President Obama as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator responsible for small business programs, financial assistance, and business development initiatives throughout the mid-Atlantic region. She has held senior management positions in both the public and the private sector in the U.S., Central Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Natalia was appointed to the U.S. Innovation Advisory Board to advise Congress and the White House on competitiveness. She has been honored with numerous prestigious awards, including recognition as a “Latina Powerhouse” by the Maryland Hispanic Business Conference. She has an MS in City and Regional Planning from the University of Pennsylvania.

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