By ASINA PORNWASIN
THE NATION WEEKEND
Thailand will play a leading role in implementing the smart-city network covering 26 cities in the 10 Asean countries as the Kingdom takes over as the bloc’s chair next year, Digital Economy and Society Minister Pichet Durongkaveroj said this week. Bangkok, Phuket and Chon Buri will feature prominently in the smart-city programme, with a focus on advancing cross-border partnerships for sustainability in seven key areas – the economy, governance, people, living, mobility, the environment and energy.
The 10-country initiative was adopted at last month’s Asean summit in Singapore to help member-nations work together to achieve the goal of smart and sustainable development. Initiated by Singapore as Asean chair this year, the Asean Smart Cities Network (ASCN) in aimed at improving people’s lives across the region.
The pilot project includes 26 cities, with Thailand proposing Bangkok, the resort-island of Phuket and Chon Buri, the home province of Pattaya. All are well-known tourist destinations, a Foreign Ministry official noted. Cities such as Chiang Mai will be added to the list later, he said.
Other member-countries proposed their capitals and tourist destinations, among them Luang Prabang, Mandalay, Siem Reap, Da Nang and Kota Kinabalu, which could also one day be developed as smart cities. The adopted framework is a non-binding guide to facilitating smart-city development in a manner that is specific to each city’s needs and potential, as well as its local and cultural context.
The key point is that a smart city harnesses technological and digital solutions as well as innovative non-technological means to address urban issues, continuously improving people’s lives and creating new opportunities.
“A smart city is equivalent to a ‘smart sustainable city’, promoting economic and social development alongside environmental protection through effective mechanisms to meet the current and future challenges of its people, while leaving no one behind,” the framework reads.
To achieve such goals, Asean members are urged to focus on having an integrated masterplan for development as well as dynamic and adaptive urban governance, it says.
Pichet said the smart-city programme has three objectives: Improving quality of life, Creating new economic and business opportunities, and Adopting innovations. In the first objective, member-countries and the 26 pilot projects will ensure that people have equal access to technology and other infrastructure.
For the second objective, the project will boost economic competitiveness and work on a “no-one-left-behind” concept, so small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups get a push. This will help redistribute income in both urban and rural communities and will promote economic growth via both traditional and creative activities.
As for the third objective, the project will focus on sustainability and environmental protection, covering water resources and management of disasters and the effects of climate change. Pichet said Thailand would host a regional summit next year at which member-countries can exchange ideas and share experiences for planning the smart-city development.
He said the project would first address the problem of traffic jams in Bangkok and other big cities, coming up with innovative solutions using real-time data, sensors, IoT (Internet of Things), artificial intelligence and predictive analytics. In Phuket, technology will be used to ensure the safety of tourists, hastened by the recent boat accident in which many Chinese tourists died.
The smart-city project also aims to offer solutions in the agriculture sector, with farmers using sensors, IoT, real-time information on weather and market rates in order to improve their productivity as well as sales.
In the tourism sector, augmented reality and virtual reality can be used to enhance visitors’ experiences. Besides Bangkok, Phuket and Chon Buri, Deputy Prime Minister ACM Prajin Junthong has proposed Chiang Mai, Khon Kaen, Chachoengsao and Rayong for the smart-city project.
Prajin heads a working group of officials from the Digital Economy and Society, Energy and Transport ministries. These three ministries will be the key drivers of the smart-city network development.