Asia’s smart cities: ‘We need to create value for citizens’
MANILA, Philippines – Imagine a city with smart public transportation systems, efficient waste management facilities, and environment-friendly ways to power up businesses.
This is a smart city, where technology is used to manage resources efficiently and provide citizens with better public services.
And in today's fiercely competitive environment, cities all over the world are trying to adopt these new innovations to position themseves as smart, resilient, and creative communities – all to attract tourism and business.
“All mayors want [their cities] to be the regional hub of something,” said Yumiko Noda, former deputy mayor of Yokohama City.
But for Noda, who is also president of Cities Solution Centre in Japan, creating smart cities is more than relying on technology or investing in infrastructure.
During a forum organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday, May 19, Noda discussed the challenges facing leaders who want to transform their cities into globally competitive and livable communities.
The 4-day ADB Knowledge Partnership Week brought together experts from 150 private sector partners and 60 think tanks to address problems and solutions in the areas of health, transport, energy, and urban development.
Value for citizens
In her presentation, Noda stressed the need for a holistic approach that tackles the many problems related to rapid urbanization.
It's not enough for governments to simply invest in infrastructure, she said.
“We have to think beyond infrastructure assets,” Noda said. “[Creating smart cities is] not just providing money to develop infrastructure. Now, we have to think of how to overcome urbanization issues.”
Leaders who want to develop world-class cities must consider the citizens' needs: what improvements in public service will make the communities livable?
For Noda, the solution involves using technology efficiently to solve traffic congestion and waste management issues – problems that affect many emerging economies in Asia.
Transportation experts, for instance, have been advocating the creation of efficient mass transit programs like the bus rapid transit system, especially in high density urban areas.
In the Philippines, the transportation department recently rolled out the express bus system to help commuters cut travel time when traveling along Metro Manila's busy thoroughfare,
“We have to create value for citizens living in the cities,” Noda said.
Yasuo Tanabe, vice president of Hitachi Ltd, also said that improving quality of life should be the key driving force behind the development of smart cities.
Questions to address
The proposed solutions come with their own set of challenges. One of the biggest concerns is finance and sustainability: who pays for these innovative solutions, and how can leaders keep them up?
Tanabe also raised the need for leaders to know how to manage the risks of introducing new programs, especially in areas where there is political or business opposition.
The government and the private sector must work closely to study sustainable solutions and how to efficiently implement them, he added.
Noda also stressed the need to include citizens in the decision-making processes.
“It’s easy to forget the citizens. But you shouldn’t forget what [public services] the citizens find value in,” she said. – Rappler.com
Green alternative energy city from Shutterstock