With the rate of Southeast Asia’s urbanisation projected to increase from 48% in 2015 to 65% in 2050, there is mounting pressure on governments to find solutions to challenges and improve their efficiency in the distribution of public services.
Driven by the desire to improve sustainability with minimal resources, the adoption of smart infrastructure can significantly improve a city’s business climate, environmental awareness and standard of living. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, across Asian cities the demand for smart city initiatives is high (up to 82% or respondents in a recent survey).
Loosely defined, a smart city is one that looks to exploit technologies such as cloud computing, big data and the Internet of Things by enabling efficiencies in existing infrastructure. There are at least three aspects to being a smart city: first, the city needs to be a smart ‘user’ of digital technology to improve municipal and public services, such as public transport and health care. Second, the city should be an enabler of innovation by businesses and citizens by providing detailed connectivity, open data and platforms for experimentation. Third, the city should be a source of ideas and solutions that has relevance not just for itself but for others across the world, to solve the common urban problems shared by many.
As people become more educated and IT literate, the fear of competition and being left behind also increases. Within the next twenty years, up to 40% of the jobs in Singapore are at risk of being taken over by computers.
The creation of smart cities can be highly beneficial. First, the building of smart infrastructure such as electricity grids and solar panels can greatly reduce costs and usage of non-renewable resources. Smart cities help boost a city’s livability, as features such as the environment, transport, governance and education are enhanced by smart technology.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit, the fundamental building blocks of any smart city are effective energy management systems, intelligent water treatment, availability of broadband, smart waste management, law enforcement, smart transportation systems, e-health and e-education, and accessible government data.
One of the key aspects of a smart city is high quality education. Another is connectivity and the presence of high-speed broadband. But, in order for it is be used by all urban dwellers, it needs to be affordable. In Asia, only Singapore and Kuala Lumpur have available and pervasive broadband, which is set at less than 5% of the average monthly income.