The definition of a “Smart City” has been debated for many years. I don’t think there should be a single definition of a Smart City. Different cities view their problems differently. Even cities in the same country have various pain points. The culture, people, infrastructure readiness, and level of municipal operations significantly impacted how the citizens see how innovative technology can help their everyday lives. Many Smart Cities Blueprints failed to materialize due to lack of execution or proper project management. Below are some tips to improve the performance of any smart cities implementations:
National Blueprints to Local Councils Action Frameworks
The National blueprint layout the overall vision of the country regarding Smart Cities, which includes the 30,000 feet view of “Smart” initiatives. Thus, each Local Councils should take this more extensive framework and work out the 1,000 feet or 100 feet view of the actual initiatives. They need to identify the short-term, mid-term and long-term projects and prioritize them.
Quick-wins to Win Hearts
People tend to be skeptical after many years of launching the blueprints, yet nothing happens on the ground. The local councils should quickly identify quick wins that can have an immediate impact with ready-made solutions or have minor customization that can be quickly deployed. Citizens need to see and feel the initiatives.
Business Models to Sustain
One of the biggest challenges would also be funding the initiatives or sustaining them in the longer run. Most Smart City initiatives are not generating revenue. Most of them make citizens’ quality of life better or have more efficient city operations in responding to citizens’ complaints. Thus, it is more cost-savings than revenue-generating initiatives. How do we sustain these services? Through long-term savings in the operational costs, it can be that will help to see the ROI. Public-Private-Partnerships are essential to solve these funding challenges.
Smart City Project Management Office
Local councils will receive so many proposals from different vendors and can be very confusing for them. They can get assistance from MSCA (Malaysia Smart City Alliance Association) to help them consolidate this proposal for them. Once the project is launched, the local councils must constantly monitor its progress, directions, and any new developments. It must be a dedicated team that can help to break down any barriers they faced during the implementation. They probably need a Chief Smart City Officer to manage and control these initiatives.
Typically, we will see new or “Greenfield” cities are much easier to deploy smart city solutions than “Brownfield” cities. Naturally, a city containing millions of people might already have many existing problems with its legacy infrastructure constructed decades earlier. The cost to retrofit or integrate older systems can be more challenging and costly. Furthermore, it can disrupt the current services. Thus, proper planning is needed to assess the existing infrastructure and systems.
Malaysia can dream of its future smart cities when executing them efficiently. It is time for us to move forward into the future cities.