Making Cities Smart: Priorities and plans of various Asian countries

Priorities and plans of various Asian countries

India Infrastructure and Southeast Asia Infrastructure recently organised the “Smart Cities in Asia” conference. The conference highlighted the progress, emerging trends and new opportunities in the sector, assessed the impact of the solutions deployed so far, identified the key challenges and showcased the most noteworthy projects and promising technology use cases. The following are the key take­­aways from the conference…

Market trends, developments and outlook

Smart cities have become a bigger focus area for countries in the Asia-Pacific region post the pandemic. The key growth trends emerging in post-pandemic smart cities are smart mo­bility, digitally driven business models, the building data ecosystem, public-private partnerships and transit-oriented development.

Transport inefficiencies cost cities billions of dollars. This is leading cities to innovate and ad­dress the growing urban mobility issues. There has been a shift from vehicle ownership to vehicle usership due to the rising costs of owning a vehicle. While in 1990, 85 per cent of households owned cars, it is expected that only 35 per cent will own cars by 2040.

Curb-side management is also becoming one of the focus areas for cities. This represents the ability to manage a city’s curb space dynamically, analyse its use, ensure access, and price curb usage depending on demand and supply for curb space in real time. Curb-sides in a city are now busier than before. Cities need to move beyond single-occupancy personal vehicle parking for curb use.

Smart cities are now being developed keeping sustainability and the environment in mind. Many cities such as Tokyo, Mila, New

Yor­k, Sydney and Singapore are proactive in ter­ms of setting zero-carbon deadlines. How­ever, one of the key challenges in the adoption of smart cities is the silo approach, which leads to the lack of integration between governments and stakeholders.

Vietnamese perspective on smart cities

A smart city is an ecosystem that provides a high quality of life for its residents. It is supported by an integrated urban planning framework that engages its stakeholders and employs in­novative technologies, ICT, and data analytics. This ecosystem comprises end-users, enablers and smart infrastructure.

To make these cities functional, a good governance system is required. It transforms technologies and smart services into social benefits. The two main functions of the governance system are development and operation. Deve­lopment includes integration and management of different layers and distribution of benefits to different stakeholders. Operation includes the operation of smart cities through interaction with the community and businesses.

In 2000, the Vietnamese government introduced its own ICT programme, leading to early stages of computerisation. In 2018, the development of smart and sustainable cities was approved. The Ho Chi Minh smart city has 26 directives to build its digital infrastructure and six channels for connecting with communities and citizens.

Thu Duc City is a combination of three districts to the east of Ho Chi Minh City that was established in 2020. The city is planned to be developed as an innovative, highly interactive city that would become the driver of high-tech production for the region. The focus of the city is on three principles: optimisation of the existing framework, integration of technological parts into comprehensive urban solutions, and focusing on outcomes and not technology.

Leveraging digital transformation in smart cities

The key components of digital transformation comprise people, processes, technology and compliance. The foundational pillars of digital transformation technology include enhanced citizen services, connected and predictive government, empowered and skilled employees, cross-agency collaboration, and a critical infrastructure backbone.

Technology can be a catalyst when it co­mes to the transformation of cities, and en­ab­les them to become citizen service-focused. Accor­ding to Gartner, by 2022, 30 per cent of smart city implementations will have artificial intelligence (AI) as a critical feature. The top priority use cases for AI and internet of things (IoT) de­ployments include public safety such as disaster prediction, infrastructure optimisation, pollution control, weather and climate prediction, parking management and adaptive traffic lights.

Governments have started taking social sentiment analytics as one of the key focus ar­eas. It helps them track and respond to citizen sentiments through the feedback they receive. Governments are also focusing on empowering their staff and citizens with the adoption of new technologies. This is helping them improve the quality of life, increase efficiency, reduce paperwork, deliver trainings, etc.

The city of Tel Aviv provides innovative electronic services to the public, finding ways to turn citizens into stakeholders. It is making use of technology to improve the operations of the city government and the lives of its citizens. The Abu Dhabi Digital Authority has also integrated government services to provide a seamless, proactive and personalised citizen experience. The Smart Streetlighting system in Taipei has helped save money and boost safety.

Macau Smart City

The Macau SAR government, along with Ali­baba Cloud, are transforming Macau into a smart city. Through cloud computing, traffic in Macau has become more intelligent, which has improved the daily commute immensely. The traffic lights are also automatically adjusted according to traffic behaviour.

The smart government application utilises a cross-departmental database that allows access to government services such as online booking of various applications. Through a st­ring of cloud computing and big data training, the Macau SAR government hopes to nurture more professionals in the technology sector.

Alibaba Cloud has deployed smart city solutions in over 23 cities with an urban sustainable platform. These cities include Macau, Beijing, Shanghai and Hangzhou. The Alibaba Cloud Hangzhou City Brain has been recognised with the Smart Transportation 2018 aw­ard. The transport system speed has inc­reas­ed by 11 per cent in the city. Also, Alibaba Cloud Haikou City Brain has been recognised with Out­standing Smart City Project for the Ad­ministration 2020 award.

The Philippines’ perspective on upcoming opportunities

The Philippines’ economy has grown by over 7 per cent year on year in the fourth quarter of 2021. On a seasonally adjusted quarter-on-quarter basis, the economy also expanded by over 3.1 per cent. The robust fourth-quarter ex­pan­sion has taken GDP growth in 2021 to over 5 per cent. This has exceeded the development budget coordination committee’s target of 5-5.5 per cent.

The PPP Center of the Philippines helps facilitate the implementation of the country’s PPP programme. It serves as a central coordinating and monitoring agency for all PPP projects in the country. As of December 31, 2021, 183 PPP projects worth $45.6 billion have been awarded and 61 PPP projects worth $144.2 billion are in the pipeline. The projects awarded since 2010 include PPP for school infrastructure, rehabilitation, and operations and maintenance of the Kalibo slaughterho­use. The projects in the pipeline involve sectors such as transportation, water supply and sanitation, and solid waste management.

Smart cities can be broadly defined as an approach to development wherein innovative, holistic, resilient and inclusive urban planning techniques and technology are incorporated in the design and implementation of critical infrastructure. The PPP options for smart city development include standalone smart city infrastructure/services and integrating smart city solutions across different sectors.

The enablers for smart city development include policy and institutional readiness, private sector participation and PPPs, holistic planning or integrated approaches, and digital skills and capacities. Some ongoing PPP projects in the Philippines are the Road Transport Infor­mation Technology Infrastructure Project and the Ormoc City Water Supply System Project.

Malaysia perspective on upcoming smart cities in Asia

The Malaysia smart city framework 2019-2025 defines a smart city as a city that uses ICT and technological advancement to address urban issues, improve the quality of life, promote economic growth, ensure a sustainable and safe en­vironment and encourage efficient urban management practices.

The key urban challenge being faced in Malaysia is an increase in urbanisation and population. The population is expected to grow from 32.7 million in 2020 to 41.5 million in 2040, while the urbanisation rate is expected to grow from 77 per cent in 2020 to around 85 per cent in 2040. The Malaysia smart city fra­me­work 2019-2025 focuses on smart economy, smart people, smart living, smart mobility and a smart environment.

The vision of Malaysia’s digital economy blueprint is to be a regional leader in the digital eco­nomy and achieve inclusive, responsible and sustainable socio-economic development. It envisages all civil servants to have digital literacy, 80 per cent end-to-end online government services, all ministries and agencies to provide cashless payment options by 2022, and 80 per cent usage of cloud storage across the government by 2022.

The National Smart City Platform (NSCP) is a sub-module under the Malaysia urban observatory. The objective of the NSCP is to ensure real-time data sharing and integration through AI, IoT, etc., support service delivery and urban management, and monitor the implementation of smart cities at the local level. The way forward for the country includes end-to-end digital services based on a people-centric smart city approach, and the establishment of a state and local urban observatory.