World Cities Summit, Singapore International Water Week, CleanEnviro Summit

Tech advances can be game-changers in reimagining cities

(From far right) Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and other guests on a tour of the Seoul booth on the first day of the World Cities Summit yesterday. Mr Wong said developments in innovation and infrastructure, i
(From far right) Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon, National Development Minister Lawrence Wong and other guests on a tour of the Seoul booth on the first day of the World Cities Summit yesterday. Mr Wong said developments in innovation and infrastructure, if harnessed wisely, can reap tremendous benefits in enhancing the liveability of cities.ST PHOTO: KHALID BABA

Dealing with innovation and disruption in urban planning dominated discussions on the first day of the World Cities Summit (WCS), which started yesterday.

The WCS is one of three sustainability events taking place at Marina Bay Sands this week.

The others are the Singapore International Water Week and the CleanEnviro Summit Singapore.

Some 20,000 participants from 100 countries are expected.

Two highlights of the day for the WCS were the Mayors Forum - attended by 122 leaders from 117 cities - and the Young Leaders Symposium, with about 90 participants from 40 cities.

The Mayors Forum was chaired by Minister for National Development and Second Finance Minister Lawrence Wong, and the Young Leaders Symposium by Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee.

Said Mr Wong in his opening address: "We have witnessed rapid advances in technology, such as digitalisation, Big Data and artificial intelligence, which are all potential game-changers that enable us to re-imagine and rebuild our cities."

Some examples he gave were how technology can help in the master-planning and visualisation of a city, as well as the use of sensors in smart street lamps.

He also referenced the recently formed Asean Smart City Network, which aims to better connect digital infrastructure and services such as e-payment across 26 cities in the region.

The forum also discussed how mayors can attract financing for infrastructure projects.

"Developments in innovation and infrastructure offer tremendous opportunity, which, if harnessed wisely, can reap tremendous benefits in enhancing the liveability and sustainability of our cities," said Mr Wong.

In Mr Lee's opening address to young leaders aged 30 to 45, he touched on the social and environmental costs of disruptive innovation - using shared bicycle services as an example.

He added that the Government should not resist new innovations, which are vital for a city's development and progress. He said: "Here in Singapore, dockless bike-sharing services have created unhappiness among many, due to indiscriminate parking and practices.

"Such tensions illustrate the line that the Government has to tread, not only between competing interests, but also in ensuring that the country remains open to new technologies and business models, or else risk missing new opportunities if you are overly rigid."

The WCS is a biennial event. This year's edition - themed Liveable And Sustainable Cities: Embracing The Future Through Innovation And Collaboration - will end on Thursday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2018, with the headline 'Tech advances can be game-changers in reimagining cities'. Print Edition | Subscribe