The definition of a “Smart City” has been debated for many years. Personally, I don’t think there should be a single definition of a Smart City. Different cities view their problems differently. Even cities in a same country have different pain-points. The culture, people, infrastructure readiness, level of municipal operations made significant impact on how the citizens see how smart technology can help their every day lives. A lot of Smart Cities Blueprints failed to materialise due to lack of execution or proper project management. Below are some tips to improve the execution 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 bigger 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 prioritise them.

Quick-wins to Win Hearts

People tend to be skeptical after many years of the launching of the blueprints and yet nothing happens on the ground. The local councils should quickly identify quick wins that can have immediate impact. Solutions which are ready-made or have less customisation that can be quickly deployed. Citizens need to see and “feel” the initiatives.

Business Models to Sustain

One of the biggest challenge would also be how to fund the initiatives or sustain them in the longer run. Most Smart City initiatives are not generating revenue. Most of them are meant to make the quality-of-life of the citizens better, or having more efficient city operations in responding to the citizens complaints. Thus, it is more cost-savings than revenue generating initiatives. How do we sustain this services? It can be through long-term savings in the operational costs that will help to see the ROI. Public-Private-Partnerships are important to solve this 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 has been kicked-off, the local councils need to constantly monitor this project 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 this initiatives.

Normally, we will see new or “Greenfield” cities are much easier to deploy smart city solutions as compared to “Brownfield” cities. Naturally, a city that contained millions of people might already have many existing problems and their legacy infrastructure has already been constructed probably decades earlier. The cost to retrofit or integrate older systems can be more challenging and costly. Furthermore, it can disrupt the current services. Thus, a proper planning need to be done to asses the current infrastructure and systems.

Malaysia can dream of their future smart cities when executing it efficiently. It’s time for us to move forward into the future cities.


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