Smart Cities Network

The main objective of the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) is to improve the lives of its citizens. ASEAN Member States (AMS) have acknowledged that the growth of the region will continue to rely heavily on urban centres. ASCN’s rapid urbanisation initiatives are bound to encounter challenges such as rising inequalities, city congestion, as well as air and water quality. Harnessing technological and digital solutions to mitigate these challenges, is expected to improve the lives of people in this region and create new opportunities for them. The underlying principle of ASCN is to ensure that no one is left behind. 26 pilot cities will kick off this initiative. Each city is tasked with 2 primary projects.

Overview of Pilot Cities and their Projects

Cambodia’s Phnom Penh (capital), Battambang and Siem Reap are engaged in revitalising Kampong Ayer (Water Village), Clean River Management projects, urban street and public space management, solid and liquid waste management, rejuvenating eleven sidewalks, improving the efficiency of the Phnom Penh Public Transit and Smart Tourist management. These projects require financial, technical and infrastructural support.

In Lao PDR, Vientiane (capital) and Luang Prabang are committed to the establishment of a drainage system,  a sustainable transport plan, Green City initiatives and the construction of concrete alleyways and footpaths. Laos requires assistance in the form of funding, consultation, knowledge sharing and transport-focused action plans.

Myanmar’s Nay Pyi Taw (capital), Mandalay and Yangon are focused on improving traffic congestion management, solid waste and wastewater treatment, affordable and low-cost housing/rental housing, tertiary education, conservation of Yangon City downtown area, and transit development. Support is required in water management, infrastructure development, funding and technical expertise. 

Thailand’s Bangkok (capital), Chonburi and Phuket are upgrading their transport hub, Smart Grid, Waste to Energy Plant and Big Data Analytics. These require technical expertise and advisory support.

In Vietnam, Da Nang, Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City are involved in ‘smart’ water management, ‘smart’ transportation, ‘smart’ traffic control and an integrated operations centre. Financial and technical support is required in addition to human resource training and sharing of best practices.

At this stage, it is clear that Continental Southeast Asia needs funding, professional expertise and technical expertise on an urgent basis in order for its cities to achieve their respective Smart City objectives. Each of these states is at a different developmental level. Thailand is mainly a migrant-receiving state in ASEAN and the other four are mainly migrant-sending states. It appears that none of these five states is in a position to be the provider of any kind of support. With the exception of Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand (ASEAN states with ageing populations), Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand have a very large combined population of young citizens who are technology savvy. This could be the potential driving force of ASEAN’s economy in the future, against the backdrop of a rapidly rising fourth industrial revolution.

Bandar Seri Begawan (capital of Brunei Darussalam) is revitalising Kampong Ayer (Water Village) and developing Clean River Management projects. Brunei needs assistance to carry out a feasibility study of the capital’s river system and pollution issues, in order to develop a waste management plan.

Indonesia has Jakarta (capital), Banyuwangi and Makassar creating jobs by linking research institutes to potential entrepreneurs, upgrading cashless payment systems, developing the tourism industry, promoting industrial growth through education, improving healthcare and integrating online tax systems. Assistance in the form of technical expertise is required to develop and implement various projects.

Malaysia has the most number of cities involved in this pilot project. Kuala Lumpur (capital), Kuching, Kota Kinabalu and Johor Bahru are engaged in designing tools for decision-making and stock-taking, developing integrated urban water management systems, transport and traffic systems, solid waste management systems, and flood management systems. It is interesting to note that in addition to funding and technical expertise, there is a strong call for political will and political support.

In the Philippines, Manila (capital), Cebu City and Davao City are working on upgrading command centres, ‘smart’ transport and traffic systems, as well as E-education. Funding, technical assistance and advisory support are required for these projects.

Singapore is the only ASEAN state that has not registered any request for support in carrying out its Smart City projects (upgrading E-payments and constructing a National Digital Identity). It received the Smart City Award on 14 November 2018 for the Smart Nation and Digital Government Group (SNDGG). This is an international recognition for the continuous application of innovative digital technologies that improve people’s lives. This city-state has been investing heavily and consistently in research on technological advancement.

If there is sufficient political will in ASEAN, Singapore could be the front-runner in lending a helping hand. There is much to be gained by all ten states in the sharing of best practices and expertise. The youth in ASEAN today will be the mitigating generation for ageing populations in the region tomorrow. If these young people are well-equipped with relevant skills, the entire region could further benefit and prosper in the future. The facilitation of intra-ASEAN human mobility at all skill levels is also a prerequisite! 

City of the Future: Singapore – National Geographic

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