Strength assessment is key to success of smart city devt

July 08, 2019 13:45
Authorities in Manila are confronting a host of problems, including severe traffic congestion, rising pollution and poor social infrastructure. Photo: Bloomberg

Philippines and Indonesia are rich in natural resources but face common problems such as severe traffic congestion and air pollution amid an urbanization trend. Given the issues, questions arise as to how such countries should proceed when it comes to smart city development? What should be done at the very beginning to ensure the success of smart city implementation?

At a recent Smart City Workshop organized by the Asian Productivity Organization, a participating university professor from the Philippines shared insights on a Manila plan launched in 2012, linking 16 cities with the nation's capital. The Metro Manila Greenprint 2030 project spans 20 years and has been taken up with the aid of the World Bank, Australia, and Japan. According to the chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, the plan has several goals:

• Building the capital as an “economic powerhouse in East Asia”, and creating a comfortable, affordable and safe living, academic and leisure environment that allows the public to live and work in peace;

• Create quality jobs that enable talents to apply their skills – for example, target to increase the positions created by IT industry and outsourcing work to 6.3 million by 2020, 2.5 times of that in 2012;

• Convenient transportation and reduced environmental pollution; there must be a sound and reliable infrastructure to cope with the challenges of natural disasters and climate change;

• Most importantly, integrate all areas of Metro Manila as a unified metropolis for both the poor and the rich, encouraging people to work together in developing the area.

However, after several years of work, many old problems still remain. There are a number of slums, with people living in poor conditions. Meanwhile, there is a lack of science, technology and innovative culture as the government has not put much resources into these areas. Owing to talents shortage and insufficient support infrastructure, there is no proper ecosystem.

To enable good planning, in my opinion, countries should first assess their strengths, including in regard to natural resources both undersea and on land.

Developed countries like the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia have made wide use of the geographic information system (GIS) to thoroughly investigate their natural assets at home so that they know how to leverage their own strengths.

In general, ASEAN countries have a great need to develop smart cities. Given this situation, Singapore and South Korea have ambitious plans to seize the potential business opportunities. Compared with them, Hong Kong has solid experiences to share and export.

For example, the Hong Kong government had introduced advanced GIS for decision-making 20 years ago, earlier than many cities in the Asia-Pacific region. Last year, the Lands Department took the lead in linking datasets of various government departments, leading to the initial model of spatial data infrastructure being formed.

There are also many initiatives in the financial sector -- such as issuance of virtual banking licenses -- that show that Hong Kong has great strength and ability to assist ASEAN countries in taking up smart city projects. If the government can speed up by improving the spatial data infrastructure as soon as possible, it will certainly put the city in a better position to export its advanced expertise.

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Adjunct Professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering; Department of Geography, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Architecture, The University of Hong Kong