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Social Innovation

Startup My City : Smart and sustainable cities in Asia

Executive summary

The concept of what constitutes a smart city is vague, and ranges from a narrow definition of technology to one that considers quality of life more broadly across a range of areas, such as education, the environment, safety and governance. Hence, this report uses the terms smart city and technology-led development interchangeably.

The Economist Intelligence Unit

The common denominator, however, is a drive for efficiency: the public sector tries to deliver better services through fewer resources while businesses and citizens demand more. This has driven governments to focus on building smarter and more sustainable cities, which are powered by technologies that can enable them. It is a necessary development due to rapid urbanization and rising expectations.

82% of citizens want their city to create more smart city initiatives

To provide insights into the development of smart and sustainable cities in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) established an expert advisory board and conducted a survey of 2,000 citizens in 20 cities across ASEAN (Bandung, Bangkok, Danang, Davao City, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Siem Reap, Singapore and Yangon) and Asia-Pacific (Auckland, Chennai, Hong Kong, Melbourne, Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Taipei and Tokyo).

Chart: Familiarity of citizens with the concept of smart cities

The key findings from the research are as follows:

  • Smart city initiatives are rising in importance and citizens want more of them:
    In part due to rapid urbanization in the region and in part due to the drive for greater efficiency among governments, businesses and citizens alike, the development of a smart city is high in demand. The survey conducted for this report shows that citizens are keen for cities to develop more initiatives that allow them to enhance the quality of their lives.
  • Connectivity is central to both supply and adoption:
    Fixed- and mobile broadband infrastructure is a necessity to enable smart city technologies such as the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and big data, which can be used to create initiatives such as smart transportation, energy, waste management and e-learning programmes, amongst others. Free Wi-Fi initiatives based on such progress can help stimulate adoption of smart initiatives among citizens.
  • A wide variety of perceived benefits:
    When asked about the main benefits of a smart city, citizens cited the environment and education as the top two benefits, illustrating that the concept goes well beyond a narrow definition of technology-enabled services. In fact, easier access to government services was only the fourth most cited benefit among survey takers.
  • A lack of information is the biggest impediment to greater usage:
    According to the survey of citizens, it is abundantly clear that they do not understand what smart city initiatives are available to them. This appears to stem from a lack of clear government communication about current efforts. In addition, experts anecdotally point to the fact that city leaders can do more to make the case for return on investment (ROI) for new initiatives and to enhance marketing of current ones.
  • Partnerships are needed to seize the full benefits:
    Most survey takers believe the government should take the lead in developing smart city initiatives; however, there is also a strong case to be made for public-private collaboration as well as including citizen users to seize the full benefits, in areas such as the development of innovation communities and leveraging open government data to create new services and products.
Briefing Paper

Download the briefing paper

To access the key findings from the research, and insights into the development of smart and sustainable cities in ASEAN and the Asia-Pacific, download the full briefing paper here.