Smart cities can be broadly defined as an approach to development wherein innovative, holistic, resilient and inclusive urban planning techniques and technologies are incorporated in the design and implementation of critical infrastructure. It is supported by an integrated urban planning framework that engages its stakeholders and employs innovative technologies, information and communication technology (ICT) and data analytics.

Market trends

The key growth trends that have been observed in the post pandemic smart city world are smart mobility, digitally driven business models, public-private partnerships (PPPs) and transit-oriented development. Traffic inefficiencies cost cities billions of dollars which is leading cities to innovate and address growing urban mobility issues. Meanwhile, smart cities are now being developed keeping sustainability and environment in mind and have become a global trend, evolving from the improvement of infrastructure and service delivery by use of sensors and technology to the improvement of city-wide decision-making by use of data analytics.

Country-led initiatives

In 2012, the Vietnamese government approved and set out a road map for the development of smart grids in the country. Then in 2018 the development of smart and sustainable cities was also given approval. The Ho Chi Minh Smart City has 26 directives to build up its digital infrastructure and six channels for connecting with communities and citizens. Thu Duc City was established in 2020, a combination of three districts, to the east of Ho Chi Minh City. The city is planned to be developed as an innovative, highly interactive city which would become the driver of high-tech production for the region.

Furthermore, the PPP centre of the Philippines facilitates the implementation of the country’s PPP programme. The PPP options for smart city development include standalone smart city infrastructure service and integrating smart city solutions across different sectors. As of December 31, 2021, 183 PPP projects have been awarded worth $45.6 billion and 61 PPP projects worth $144.2 billion are in the pipeline.

Japan, on the other hand, has been laying the groundwork for a full-scale implementation of smart cities, including a PPP platform, a super city open lab, a smart city guidebook, an industrial map, and the design of a data exchange layer. It is based on a smart city reference architecture that has been derived from the Society 5.0 architecture. Osaka and Tsukuba have been selected under the Super Cities initiatives wherein holistic future state of cities in Japan in 2030 is showcased.

Jakarta is likewise striving towards a City 4.0 evolution, in which the government collaborates with citizens to achieve long-term goals. System- and data-driven technology, smart collaboration, mobile first, and digital experience are the four principles. Jakarta aims to achieve smart city as an ecosystem through data-driven policy and public services.

Digital interventions Technology acts as a catalyst when it comes to transformation of cities and enables them to become citizen service focused. Various digital efforts have been implemented to help cities transform. In this context, Jerusalem’s Transit Authority has employed a smart adaptive traffic network and bus solution reducing travel time by 47 per cent and quadrupling public transit ridership. Through cloud computing, traffic in Macau has become more intelligent which has immensely improved the daily commute. Through string of cloud computing and big data training, the Macau SAR government hopes to nurture more professionals in the technology sector.

Meanwhile, Malaysia has a Digital Economy Blueprint which aims to make it a regional leader in the digital economy and achieve inclusive, responsible and sustainable socio-economic development. In Japan, digital twin and beyond 5G are technology drivers, which are being implemented in more than 50 cities. Various projects including urban monitoring and disaster recovery planning are being undertaken in the country.

Jakarta has developed the JAKI super application as a platform to report the city’s problems and to integrate all innovations to create a one-stop solution for all services.The country has prepared a dashboard to monitor the performance of various government agencies.

Key challenges

Among the various challenges that have come up in the adoption of smart cities, one major challenge that is faced widely is the silo approach which leads to lack of integration between governments and stakeholders. Further, an urban environment faces multiple challenges related to mobility and transport including traffic congestion and depleting air quality. Future road map In the coming years sectors such as ICT, infrastructure, finance, public sector management, and agriculture are expected to be given great consideration in order to accelerate the development of smart cities. Going forward, development on the lines of end-to-end digital services, people-centric smart city approach, establishment of state and local urban observatories, and strengthening open data policy is expected.