@Green January/February 2022 - Page 19

January-February , 2022 | @ green



Why do smart cities fail ?

Technology distracts people from focusing on more important things

LOCAL COUNCILS and developers show much interest to implement smart cities in Malaysia . It is an excellent effort as it will help to tackle sustainability .

However , many people , including city developers , often associate smart cities with the advancement of technology without understanding its real meaning . This kind of idea may lead to the failure of smart cities .
During a forum at City Expo Malaysia 2021 , Brice Richard , Smart City Consulting Lead at ARUP Singapore , explained why some smart cities failed to achieve their intended outcome .
“ The core definition of a smart city is any city that is using technology to make either its living experience better or to make it run more efficiently or cheaply ,” said Richard .
According to Richard , the growing interests in implementing smart cities were attributed to the rising urban challenges , resource limitations and technological breakthroughs . However , not all these smart cities were created equal .
“ When people talk about smart cities , they would be talking about different things ( depending on the region ).
Types of smart city
Richard said there were three main types of smart cities . The first one is the commercial model . He explained that this model is standard in Southeast Asia and essentially implemented by real estate developers from the private sector . He gave KLCC and Cyberjaya as examples .
“ These are essentially projects that real estate developers see as an opportunity to enhance the services that will be provided to the residents or the tenants of office buildings . Because they are massive , they ’ re called smart cities .”
The second type of smart city is the civic model . Civil models are smart city initiatives driven by citizens , including startups , associations , NGOs , and civil society .
“ They are coming up with initiatives on the ground to help the elderly or to improve traffic . It ’ s coming from people bottom-up . You will find that a lot in Europe . Barcelona and Finland are some good examples .”
“ The third one is the one that is happening in Singapore is an institutional model . It is a model that is essentially driven by the government where the government comes up with a big master plan and puts a lot of money to drive its implementation .”
Richard said some key smart cities technology that enabled many things in the city included the internet of everything , augmented experiences , advanced analytics and social platforms . Smart cities could also impact access and mobility , environment and sustainability , security and safety , public services , urban systems and liveability and vibrancy .
Richard shared that Malaysia had been investing in the journey towards smart cities since 1996 . The effort culminated in the recent Malaysia Smart City Framework ( MSCF ). The mission of MSCF was to coordinate the development of smart cities holistically in line with national and
global agendas .
“ What we ’ ve seen in the last 20 years , the smart city projects in Malaysia have completely multiplied . We ’ ve invented more than 100 smart city projects that are currently going on or have been recently going on nationally .”
According to Richard , a large portion of the projects inventoried focuses on aspects such as follows :
• Setting Malaysia ’ s key digital infrastructure and capabilities
• Creating large scale integrated data and software platforms ( like data hubs and control centres )
• Improving transportation and mobility
Why do smart cities fail ?
“ City operators , city officials and city developers see technology as a miracle cure that is going to solve the problem . They see blockchain , artificial intelligence and machine learning like they ’ re going to solve everything .
“ Meanwhile , technology vendors like Samsung , IBM , Microsoft , etc ., see smart cities as a great opportunity to sell their technology ,” shared Richard .
However , he said there was a considerable gap between reality and what happens on the ground . The gap led to many empty smart cities , unused and broken technologies . Many cities came up with fancy plans but were not followed by onground implementations and , at worst , included irrelevant technologies and infrastructure .
“ For example , Apple creates a brand new campus packed with technology , but they forgot to include a daycare . So , sometimes technology distracts ( people ) from the important things ,” he added .
Richard said three main reasons for this usual scenario were : the focus on technology rather than outcomes , siloed approaches and lack of focus and relevance .
He stated that many developers and officials started with technology and tried
to cram them on their sites without understanding what they were trying to achieve . As a result , the elements of the developments were not seamlessly integrated to reach the site ’ s outcome .
He then shared other reasons why smart cities were more a dream than a reality . The reasons include :
• Lack of leadership interest and only do it for marketing
• Governmental fragmentation and lack of communication between stakeholders
• The schism between national level and local level authorities
• Funding gaps and limited ability for private and public to work together
What can we do about it ?
While the failure of smart cities could be addressed in several ways , Richard shared some recommendations to enhance the deployment of smart cities , specifically in Malaysia . The recommendations were :
• Further develop smart city technology standards
• Combine national-level strategy with municipal implementation
• Create a holistic public data management framework
• Ensure digital infrastructure are deployed with inclusivity
• Move on to a full-spectrum cyber security strategy
• Adopt alternative smart city financing methods
• Streamline and centralise public sector digital service delivery
• Coordinate technology procurement
• Further empower smart city research and innovation “ Technology is not a miracle . It won ’ t solve all your issues . But , if your city is attractive and you want to make your city efficient and better for people , you can use technology as an added value . However , it won ’ t be the main reason why people move ( to the city ).” — @ Green
Brice Richard
What we ’ ve seen in the last 20 years , the smart city projects in Malaysia have completely multiplied . We ’ ve invented more than 100 smart city projects that are currently going on or have been recently going on nationally .”
– Brice Richard