Smart cities made its debut as an idea over a decade ago. The growing pains of urbanisation required governments around the world to consider leveraging technology to help alleviate the big challenges facing the cities. The problems for dense cities are many, ranging from high energy consumption, traffic congestion, pollution and increase in crime. The technology is ready and available, yet majority of the smart city projects have met with limited success. As with all new things, there are risks involved. But moving forward takes a bit of courage, and a leap of faith. After all, this is what defines a pioneer; bungee jumping into uncharted territory, outside their comfort zone.
The biggest challenge by far is the complexity of the initiative and managing the collaboration between the multitude of stakeholders needed to make smart city initiatives a success.
There are three crucial building blocks to overcoming the main challenges of smart city implementation:
Let’s start with technology which is what a smart city is all about. Technology plays a crucial role in the transformation of smart cities, with benefits that stand to be gained by all stakeholders. The role of technology can be dissected into seven key aspects:
Smart city development cannot be done in an ad-hoc fashion. The various elements need to come together to form a uniform vision and serve a core purpose – to solve specific problems of the city’s residents and improve quality of life. The development of a smart city vision should embrace the following four principles:
A smart city should aim to embrace technology across all aspects of the citizens lifestyle and tight integration of a range of services from transportation, health, education, etc built around citizen journeys.
The citizens are the heart-beat of every city. A successful initiative involves building trust between the citizens and the governing body through citizen-centric decision and policy making as well as transparency of data and information. Providing citizens smart tools helps with the data collection effort. This helps mitigate the “black hole” problem, with information on any pressing issues reported by concerned citizens made readily available for authorities to address them at the earliest.
Through widespread data collection, smart cities can solve many problems quickly, made possible by insights from data. An iterative approach that enables constant problem solving is crucial for long-term success. Data insights can also help city managers and planners address the core issues that impact every citizen and minimize chances of recurrence.
Another concept that smart cities should internalise is the DNA of a smart city, namely, Devices, Networks, and Applications. A successful smart city harmonises the interaction between its devices used in daily operations, connected by a network that sustains it, and managed through the use of applications and software’s to ensure a seamless operation and function void of errors.
A successful smart city implementation cannot be achieved without the proper governance and management, support from stakeholders buying into the idea, and the feedback from the citizens living within. Vision and ideas are relatively simpler to define, the challenge is the execution. The key success factors include:
While the task seems daunting, there are many global best practices we can follow. The technology has matured and the right funding models are coming into place. We need to act with a sense of urgency. As we embrace the new post-pandemic future, the time to act is now. Failing which we will have only compounded the many challenges for our already fast-growing cities.
Learn more on how Smart City contributes to our nation’s aspiration in becoming a Digital Malaysia.