What it takes to become a smart city

It takes more than just deploying technology to become a sustainable smart city, according to panellists at CommunicAsia 2017.

By Nayela Deeba
June 6, 2017


Good planning, strong political policies, and technology capabilities are necessary to enable a city to become smarter and more efficient. However, cities need to do more than that to remain sustainable.

This is according to panellists at the CommunicAsia 2017 Smart City panel discussion. The panelists were Steffen Endler, SVP, Siemens; Johnny Wong, group director, building and research institute, Singapore's Housing & Development Board (HDB); Agachai Sumalee, director, Smart City Research Centre, Thailand; and Craig Price, senior vice president, International Projects, HKT Global Development Services.

First and foremost, governments need to take into consideration if the public can adapt to the latest technologies, said Wong. The panellists stressed the need to ensure that the public is comfortable to deal with new technologies and share data.

The panellists also agreed that in order to become a smart city, it is necessary for government leaders to understand if the new technologies to be developed and/or deployed will solve the challenges governments will face in the next five to 10 years. They thus need to think out of the box and creatively apply relevant technologies to improve public services.

For instance, the Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) has upgraded its Health Buddy app to allow patients to register their appointments and get their queue numbers remotely before visiting the clinic.

Aiming to encourage Singaporeans to be more proactive towards their own health and well-being, the app also features a collection of health tips, and information on various medical conditions and treatments written by healthcare professionals and medical doctors. This is important for Singapore as she is facing an ageing population. According to the Department of Statistics Singapore, the proportion of residents aged 65 years and over increased from 8.4 percent in 2006 to 12.4 percent in 2016.

The panellists also highlighted that it is necessary to have a clear IT framework as it will allow governments and organisations to test various initiatives, and decide if those initiatives are sustainable in the long run. 

Furthermore, organisations should foster strong leadership ties to build a smart ecosystem for the future, the panellists added.

The panelists concluded the discussion by advising leaders to be mindful about the amount of funds available to develop a country—suggesting that leaders should not overspend in the pretext of building a smart city.