Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. It has the highest murder rate in the world, almost double the next closest contender. It's a place ravaged by the illegal drug trade and political instability. As recently as 2009 the military ousted a president pushing to modify the constitution in order to extend his own term. It may seem like the last place on earth where businesses would want to invest, or where people would want to move.
But there's a new idea about to be tried in Honduras.
Some call it a Startup City or Free City, others a LEAP Zone, and in Honduran law it's known as a ZEDE. They are politically autonomous, privately run zones that supporters believe could transform not only Honduras, but the entire developing world.
In "Governance as Technology," the first episode in a four-part series, a couple of the key players behind the ideas animating this project explain the specifics of the Honduran plan and the broader philosophy behind the "startup city" movement. There's Zachary Caceres, a young man who moved from the U.S. to Guatemala to run the Startup Cities Institute and who says that bringing the same "entrepreneurial process of trial-and-error to social tech that we already know works in physical tech" is essential to lifting the developing world out of poverty. And there's seasoned reformer and ex-Reagan speechwriter Mark Klugmann, who sits on the board responsible for greenlighting the zones in Honduras and who believes that this project could "demonstrate inside of Honduras and to the world that the capacity for solving problems and for creating jobs in particular could go forward with a velocity that few have been expecting."
Watch the video above, and check out the rest of the series here. Part II explores already existing examples of experimental governance in Honduras, including entire towns commissioned and governed by private companies. Part III delves into the history of the Honduran ZEDEs and highlights both past and current criticism of the project. And Part IV looks forward with some entrepreneurs who've already sketched out business plans for what they hope will be one of the first Honduran startup cities. Or, watch the whole thing here:
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Approximately 5 minutes. Produced by Zach Weissmueller and Ross Kenyon. Edited by Weissmueller. Music by Chris Zabriskie.
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