Several Asean cities inked agreements with corporate partners in Singapore yesterday, to gear up to become "smart cities".
The five agreements included a letter of intent between Chonburi's Amata Smart City in Thailand and the Yokohama Urban Solution Alliance, to work on a smart energy management system.
This new system will manage the city's electrical network, energy generation and transmission systems, and power distribution systems.
The signings took place at the Asean Smart Cities Network (ASCN) Meeting at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre, where Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan spoke of the opportunities and challenges facing a rapidly urbanising and digitalising region.
He noted that 90 million more people are expected to urbanise by 2030, with "middle weight" cities of between 200,000 and two million residents expected to drive 40 per cent of the region's growth.
This will continue to create challenges related to city congestion, water and air quality, as well as security and safety, he said.
It will also place greater strains on transport, housing and IT networks, he told about 200 national representatives, chief smart city officers from the ASCN and external partners and private sector players.
At the same time, technological advancements such as robotics, artificial intelligence and Big Data are transforming societies, Dr Balakrishnan added. "We need to get ahead of this curve primarily because we need to ensure that our citizens will continue to have access to good jobs, good pay and that they will be able to feel that this revolution benefits them, their families and their children for the future," he said.
Cities now face the key challenge of identifying technological solutions that will help them to overcome challenges related to urbanisation, he added.
These technologies should also improve the delivery of public services and the quality of citizens' lives, as well as create new opportunities.
This is the idea behind the ASCN, an initiative spearheaded by Singapore as this year's Asean chair. In April, 26 Asean cities were named pilot cities in the network, including Singapore, Johor Baru, Phuket, Yangon, Phnom Penh and Vientiane.
Dr Balakrishnan also stressed that the ASCN will respect Asean's sociocultural, political and economic diversity. "Because we are diverse, we will not impose a monolithic system on everyone. Whether you talk about e-payments or planning or logistics, I do not believe that there will be a single dominant system across Asean," he said. "Each of us will have our national systems but our national systems will be inter-operable."
ASCN national representatives and chief smart city officers at the meeting yesterday endorsed the Asean Smart Cities Framework, which was developed in April and sets out Asean's definition of a smart city. They also finalised city-specific smart city action plans for the 26 pilot cities, and set the future direction for the ASCN.