“Every now and then a man’s mind is stretched by a new idea or sensation, and never shrinks back to its former dimensions,” said Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr, an American poet, physician and polymath.
Such is the invention of smart cities.
A smart city is an area of urban development that utilises various methods of electronic data collection to manage the city’s assets and natural resources. A productive smart city affects the lives of society on many levels – from employing effective waste management systems to reducing energy consumption and focusing on producing clean energy. The concept of a smart city is defined along six dimensions: smart governance, smart economy, smart people, smart mobility, smart living and smart environment.
These six dimensions fundamentally cover the various areas that smart cities are trying to develop and improve on within a particular society. The issue of transparency between citizens and the government is addressed in the concept of a smart governance which helps to facilitate smart decision-making thanks to the availability of data and e-public services. At the same time, this allows governments to strengthen democracy, encourage citizen participation and improve public welfare through a thoroughly-integrated infrastructure.
The advanced infrastructure also paves the way for a smarter economy which will then boost sustainable growth and productivity within the financial sector while making e-commerce processes easier and more seamless.
Meanwhile, smart living and smart people focus on enhancing the quality of life through the use of applications and technology. Services are made available to consumers at their fingertips as processes become more simplified. Finally on a larger scale, smart environment ensures that the city is powered by renewable and clean energy which is managed through information and communication technologies (ICT).
Smart cities in ASEAN
A recent smart cities index ranking list was released by the EasyPark Group for the year 2017. The list ranked the top 100 smart cities in the world, which were ajudged based on several parameters – transport and mobility, sustainability, governance, innovation economy, digitalisation, living standard and expert perception.
Singapore was the country ranked 2nd, while Malaysia was ranked 84th.
“Every city in this index deserves to be applauded for their efforts, and while the results clearly indicate those cities which are leaps and bounds ahead, it also brings to attention the admirable efforts of many cities looking forward towards a smart future," said Mauritz Börjeson, Chief Business Development Officer (CBDO) of EasyPark Group.
The remaining eight nations within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), were not included in the ranking at all. Despite a large disparage between the growth of smart cities within the Southeast Asian region, there are steps taken in the right direction towards altering ASEAN's smart city landscape.
The plan for ASEAN smart cities
Indonesia for example has plans to develop at least a 100 smart cities over the next two years. They currently have many smart city related programs in operation such as the Jakarta Smart City Project, that provides support for technology-based startups and companies within the capital city, and Bandung’s Command centre – probably Indonesia’s leading smart city at the moment.
The Vietnamese government, as well, currently has various tentative smart city plans in development, of which most notably is the Nhat Tan-Noi Bai project. The Nhat Tan-Noi Bai project is a four billion dollar smart city that will be located in the north of Hanoi. The city will be hosting an international financial centre, a business and cultural centre, an exhibition centre and an ASEAN village. The Vietnamese government is working with the Sumitomo Group from Japan to develop the smart city projects.
In Malaysia, there are several plans that are already in operation such as the China Smart Creation (CSC) Smart Eco-Valley in Bentong, Pahang that is vying to become the first official smart city in Malaysia, and the joint venture between the Aspen Group and IBM to create a 2.2 billion dollar smart city development in Penang. The project is going to be Malaysia's first and most comprehensive cloud infrastructure and technology services platform.