We had the pleasure of having more than 180 delegates from MOSTI, Platcom Ventures, Tenaga Nasional and more. Speakers from the Netherlands, Portugal, Hong Kong, Japan and other Asian countries shared their expertise and key secrets of success. We all know that these countries are among the top 10 smart cities in the world.
We asked our top speakers some questions we would like to share with you.
How does the human factor limit smart cities more than technology? Do you think cities should focus more on smart city challenges with their citizens, rather than technologies?
Martin Venzky- Stalling : Entrepreneurs and governments are increasingly understanding that people are the most important part of a smart city. Technologies need to enable human-centric cities and happiness. A new challenge for the smart city is that not just dealing with infrastructure solutions, but also dealing with a data analytics layer. The data analytics layer now enables you to make decisions based on data. These require different skills. We need to train people new skills in government, business and community. People do not automatically understand what technologies can do for them. The challenge now is to create projects and visible smart city initiatives that in 2-3 years will show people why they are important for them. I think more people will have interest and come forward and ask you “How can I do this?” or “How can I do that?” When you talk about investment, I am a little skeptical that money is the solution.
Dominic Yin: The number one goal is to educate people, to make them smart and to understand why we want to make our city smart. Therefore, education not only means high school or university, but encouraging people to think about the future. If entrepreneurs and government do something that people don't understand, they won't support it; they will probably be against it. It's 4 wheel drive: government, entrepreneurs, media and professionals.
Frans-Anton Vermast: All the technology and ICT is there. It's a matter of implementation. If you don't make your solutions citizens-centric, then in the end, the smart city project will fail. So in my opinion, yes, citizens are the most important stakeholders when it comes to smart cities.
A few days ago, the Wangxian company announced that they will be investing $30 billion in a smart city initiative project. Do you agree that smart cities need this kind of investment? Is it really necessary?
Martin Venzky-Stalling: I think most of the time we need to integrate smart cities solutions into existing landscapes. I am not sure if this huge investment will work. I think you will probably need more of a portfolio of projects. So, the answer is perhaps. I am little skeptical that money is the solution. We need money to make projects. But big money only is not the solution.
Dominic Yin: In my opinion, planning and designing have to be done first, when you build a smart city. To plan means to cover everyone. It's 5W2H. You have to study everything first and work out the policy gradually. Then you need to calculate expenditure: human resources, equipment and money. You have to let the public know where the money is going: where and in which area it will be used. Next, law enforcement is implemented, in order to ensure that this money won't be stolen by corrupt people. If you don't explain where this huge amount of money goes, people will be against it I'll be against it. The usage of money has to be transparent.
Maimunah Jaffar: If they are using technology and connectivity, mobility, smart building, etc., then yes. I think it's about the amount of money that you invest, but again when we talk about smart cities it's not just about technology, it's about the people, it's about the environment, so I think that technology is a hydrogen for any development to move. But again, if you look at different perspectives: community, environmental or social, perhaps it will not be that high of an investment. I think it's quite good for somebody to actually invest and make that commitment. Because somebody needs to start somewhere. Then people can look at it; it can become a showcase and people will understand.
Frans Anton Vermast: In my opinion, yes. Investment has to come from the private sector, but in our experience (Amsterdam) small pilots projects. So yes the money is needed. I am not sure if a big amount of money will actually get to the smart cities movement on the go. Because there will be a lot of people that will apply for this money and when the money runs out, then probably projects will stop, so I think that you'll have to rethink the whole financial model when it comes to smart cities. And I truly do not believe in a nationwide smart city strategy. I think you should focus on small regions and small cities and use this ultimate approach and it will spread like ink through blotting paper.
What's really holding Kuala Lumpur from becoming a smart city?
Martin Venzky-Stalling: A smart city has so many components: the use of technology, safety, sustainability, etc. Are people aware of where waste goes? Are people aware of their health? Are they living healthy? Are they aware of what their choices regarding commuting mean for them personally or for all the cities? Being a smart city is a goal and journey. And probably we are going to we are going to see the goal come into view every time we make some achievements. At the moment, we have so many challenges, particularly with sustainability. We will see that goal come into closer view as Amsterdam makes more progress. I think if enough people in Kuala Lumpur can identify with some clear goals, like we need to make KL greener or more sustainable, we can use community power to talk to the local government about how we can make the community better and we can use some technologies to provide services then you get that momentum. In my opinion it's more the enough and then immediate goal for the whole city.
Dominic Yin: Actually KL is going in the smart city direction, but but only here and there and only by a little bit. For instance, when I arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday and used KLIA express train. That's smart. Later on, my driver used touch 'n' go card to pass pay tolls that's smart, but it's not enough. When you say it's smart, I think Singapore can do it better, and New York can do it better; Tokyo can do it better. So this is a continuous process. In my opinion, you should not do it here and there. You should implement a comprehensive plan. What should be done? If I do this, will I get a return? Do I have ROI (return on investment)? Maybe no, postpone this until we are ready. You want to build a bridge? If there is no traffic, why would you build a bridge? You have to plan everything and make a total plan. It's can't be done here and there. Doing it here and there happens because some entrepreneurs want their money and profit; they don't care what happens later. Even if the bridge was built and there's no traffic, I got the money already, so why should I care?
Frans Anton Vermast: I think you should shift from a top-down approach to a bottom-up
approach. Listen to the people who are visiting and living and working in your city and try to make things tailor-made to the end user. What I see in KL is investment in transportation: take KLIA, which cost 55RM. If you always make public transportation very expensive, people won't have any intentions to use it. Another thing: get cities connected ASAP to a bidirectional communication infrastructure. Because if you have a communication infrastructure, it doesn't matter whether it's mobile or fixed – just open up a market and make sure that there's competition there. It will benefit all citizens in the end.
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