Mon, June 27, 2022

in-focus

When "smart city" is used to explain Apec, will it work?


With Thailand set to host the Apec Summit in less than six months, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is stepping up its efforts to explain what the mega-event involving 23 economies is all about and how it will impact Thai people's lives.

Vitaya Saeng-Aroon

The Nation

Khon Kaen's smart city model was highlighted to make it easier to understand the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation, at a seminar “Apec Media Focus Group 2022 #4” held on Wednesday at Khon Kaen University International College.

Established in 1989, Apec serves as a major economic platform to promote regional economic integration.

Thailand has prepared a year-long promotion about the summit through events and activities across the country to ensure people will benefit from the series of Apec meetings scheduled to be held in Bangkok, Chiang Mai in the North, Phuket in the South, and Khon Kaen in the Northeast on November 18-19.

The theme of the Thailand-hosted summit is: “Open. Connect. Balance".

"What is Thailand’s role in Apec?,” Cherdchai Chaivaivid, director-general at the Department of International Economic Affairs and Apec Senior Official at Apec Media Focus Group 2022, asked, and proceeded to answer:

Cherdchai Chaivaivid, Director-General,  Department of International Economic Affairs and Thailands Senior Official for Apec

“To give impetus to the development of Apec, Thailand will push the BCG [Bio, Circular, Green] model of growth. In the next six months, Apec will significantly cover issues on food security, women and economy, forest, health, economy and MSME [micro small and medium-sized enterprises] development. But the key is responsibility.

"We will push bio and circular as the main issues in the Apec meeting," he said.

Charnarong Buristrakoon, president of Khon Kaen Chamber of Commerce, said Khon Kaen province has been turning itself into a smart city. Once it achieves the goal, the province expects to attract people to live and work here.

Charnnarong Buristrakoon, President of Khon Kaen Chamber of Commerce.

"To become a smart economy, we must create things that people would want, then the economy will grow. Without such development, people will move to bigger cities or move out of the country," he said.

The concept of "smart city" is credited to Boyd Cohen from EADA Business School in Barcelona, Spain. He coined the terms "Smart City Wheel”, comprising six aspects: environment, mobility, people, governance, living, and economy.

In Europe, most countries concentrate on the six aspects to develop a smart city. In China, the country's priorities centre around environment, economy, governance, people, and infrastructure, while Thailand's focus is on environment, economy, mobility, energy, people, living, and governance.

Dubbed as the first province in the country to get "smart", Khon Kaen has seen its business community forming a new business entity in a bid to bring changes to the province, which is strategically situated in the heart of the northeastern economic development plan of the government.

When "smart city" is used to explain Apec, will it work?

It took two years for Khon Kaen Think Tank (KKTT), with registered capital of 200 million baht, to bring the vision into reality through its networking with local businesses, local government administrative agencies, and the central government.

Khon Kaen has become the first province in the country where the local private sector has led the provincial planning, development, and infrastructure.

However, the province has been experiencing delays in creating new facilities and infrastructure, including the highly anticipated Light Rail Transit System.

"More businesses here will make Khon Kaen a new economy that does not necessarily rely on agriculture, Investing in the light rail will change the economic landscape of the province. People should love to come here, not be forced to come here. Big companies would want to open branches here in Khon Kaen," said Charnarong.

Charoenlak Phetpradab, secretary-general of Khonkaen For The Future Foundation, which was an inspiration behind the establishment of KKTT, said developing a city is not about going out on the streets and staging protests; there are other ways.

Charoenlak Phetpradab,  Secretary-Genaeral,  Khonkaen For The Future Foundation

"Our foundation uses three pillars of power: academic, society, and policies to drive changes, what we believe is deliberative democracy," he said, citing a form of democracy that requires deliberation along with consensus decision-making and majority rule.

The Smart City Model in Khon Kaen is practically driven by Khon Kaen University International College, as a strategic and academic partner. The college has served as a catalyst in research, survey, and directions.

"In the development of a circular economy, we have to make sure that zero waste is in focus at every stage of production," Assistant Professor Chavis Ketkaew, associate dean for strategy, research, and international affairs, Khon Kaen University International College, said.

Chavis Ketkaew, Associate Dean for Strategy, Research, and International Affairs, Khon Kaen University - International College (KKUIC)

He cited a project on how to manage the waste of fruits like mango. The college's research found scientific processes in running a so-called Agri-Waste Management Platform to turn mango waste into new products, such as mango seed butter, mango peel paper, and Kombucha leather.

"With the attempt to implement a circular economy, the concept is needed in every part of the supply chain. Fruit or vegetable growers can use a digital platform to find those who want the waste. This way the waste is added with value instead of giving them away as only animal feeds," Chavis said.

Another factor in drawing people to a smart city is how to manage tourism, Sirimonbhorn Thipsingh, dean of the International College, said, mentioning a survey entitled "How people perceive the image of a smart tourism destination”.

Sirimonbhorn Thipsingh, Dean of Khon Kaen University International College

A research survey titled "Smart Tourism Destination Image and the Influence on Tourist Motivation and Travel Intention” surveyed 389 tourists from Gen Z. The tech-savvy generation said they focus on three areas when making a visit to a province: smart people, smart living, and smart mobility.

"Khon Kaen University has a policy to blend the concept of global citizen into the operation and other parts of the university," Sirimonbhorn said.

Khon Kaen served 2.92 million visitors in 2020, generating approximately 8.6 billion baht. The province has been selected as one of the country's centres for being creative for tourism and conferences along with Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Chonburi (Pattaya), and Phuket.

Sa-nga Sattanun, Program Manager, Trade and Investment Facilitation (Mekong Institute)

Sa-nga Sattanun, program manager, Trade and Investment Facilitation at Mekong Institute, said that Khon Kaen has played a vital role in the development of Greater Mekong Sub-Region, as the province is one the country's leaders of the Northeastern Economic Corridor, or NeEC.

The other three provinces are Nakhon Rachasima, Udon Thani, and Nong Khai.

Published : June 22, 2022

By : THE NATION