Iskandar Malaysia to be a model for other cities

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  • Saturday, 10 Nov 2012

ISKANDAR Malaysia (IM) in Johor has been chosen as a Smart City Model for Malaysia and the world.

The selection took place during the first intersession meeting of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) in July 2012, in San Jose, US.

The GSIAC was formed by the Malaysian government and the New York Academy of Sciences in order to drive Malaysia’s effort to accelerate economic development through science, technology and innovation. It serves as an advisory panel to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and is composed of international experts drawn from industry, academic and the public sector.

Iskandar Regional Development Authority (Irda) chief executive officer Datuk Ismail Ibrahim talked with The Star on the topics related to the Smart City project.

Q: What is the definition of a smart city and what does it mean to IM?

A: In line with its strategic pillars, IM’s definition of a smart city is an integration of three basic components: the economy, environment and social aspects.

By combining these components, it will form the basis of becoming a city that performs well focused on six areas — the economy, the environment, governance, mobility, people and the quality of living.

The city is built on the “smart” integration of investments of human and social capital, combining hard and soft infrastructure that fuel sustainable economic development as well as a high quality of life, and wise management of natural resources through good participatory governance.

Often, terminologies and newly coined words create more confusion for the public instead of giving them a better insight on what is being done and will be done in the future...

Smart City is not a new concept to the European countries and our neighbour, Singapore.

The definition might vary from one city to another depending on the priorities in the respective countries.

Not to confuse the public, this is the main reason that IM Smart City framework was developed based on and in line with our three main pillars which are economy, environment and social.

The enhanced and added-value focus points are:

·How we attract economic growth in a smart way — catalytic projects, complementing Singapore and meeting global requirements.

·How we get smart and good buy-in from the public in the things that we want to do and implement, and usage of new channels of communications for the citizens — such as public participation for feedback, utilising our website to reach out to a larger group of people, encouraging the private sector to work together with the public sector in providing infrastructure.

·How can we conserve the environment in a SMART way — to entice the developers/investors to do their part on environment by giving incentives for green technology and infrastructure and introducing green economy and carbon credits.

·How we should plan for smart mobility and connectivity by focusing on public transport instead of building more roads and improve strategic ICT infrastructure to ease the process of doing business and living without actual movements on the roads. The ICT improvements will also provide new economic opportunity for people living in city as well as in rural areas.

·How we can produce smart people and mind-sets by taking to the grass roots and younger generation, providing training and events to promote harmony, and provide job opportunities and outreach programmes.

·How we provide quality of living in a smart way, by having and promoting shared responsibility between police, business communities and locals to ensure safety and securety in Iskandar Malaysia through efforts like the SafeCAM project and Rakan Cop. There should also be diversity and choice in education and health for a better lifestyle and varied recreational facilities focusing on family-oriented activities.

While it looks good on paper, in reality are we ready to embrace this concept or is it something that is being politicised for the benefit of certain quarters?

Iskandar Malaysia is on track to achieving the characteristics and indicators for being a smart city.

And in order to be relevant, Iskandar Malaysia needs to compete with other cities in Malaysia: Greater KL — Top 20 Liveable City in 2020, Putrajaya — Green City, and Cyberjaya — Cyber City of Malaysia

Although the names are different, at the end of the day the cities have the same objectives and as highlighted by our Prime Minister. The implementation of these initial projects will act as a catalyst and add value to the existing transformation efforts in providing trade and investment opportunities as well as high-value jobs, and to ensure Malaysia meets its targets as high-income nation by 2020.

However, there are certain gaps that we need to improve, which Iskandar Malaysia is working on, such as ICT infrastructure and connectivity that are key enablers for implementation of the smart city programme.

Why has IM been chosen for the project? Is it a testing ground before the concept is implemented in other parts of the country?

Iskandar Malaysia is one of the fast-developing economic growth corridors in Malaysia. With its track record and various completed blueprints and action plans, Iskandar Malaysia can accelerate the programmes because:

·Its vision and pillars are similar to the framework benchmark of international cities.

·It already has blueprints that outline the detailed action plans, and many are in line with the smart city framework.

·It consists of green field and brown field areas with varied infrastructure and capacities that enable it to win

·It has already developed a sustainable and implementable model where projects are privately driven and require minimum government intervention; and

·It has Irda and its resources to play the role of planning, promoting, and facilitatting the necessary initiatives.

What are the challenges in implementing the smart-city concept in Iskandar Malaysia?

The four main challenges in implementation are:

·Coordinating policies. It requires collaboration of all agencies in Malaysia to provide the necessary policies.

·Communication infrastructure readiness. The infrastructure, especially ICT, needs to be in place and pricing needs to be competitive.

·Robustness of implementation models. The initiatives should be private-sector driven, with minimal government intervention.

·Capacity building for required skill sets — attracting and retaining talent to match the required job skill in a smart environment.

What benefits do we (residents and businesses) get from the smart-city concept in IM?

In a Smart City, we can expect:

·Well-connected communities with accessible information for economic opportunities, sustainable information on environment and social programmes.

·Increased community income and productivity with new business opportunities via ICT infrastructure.

·Improved skill sets and job opportunities through innovative economic catalysts.

Do you think that Malaysians, or in this case residents of IM will be receptive to the smart-city concept?

The smart-city concept is a lifestyle and one that the younger generation is embracing and will not be able to live without. It is:

· A smart economy that is competitive in innovation, entrepreneurship, intellectual property, productivity and flexibility of the labour market (in terms of work hours and location) as well as integration in the global market.

· Smart people, which is not only described by the level of qualification or education of the community, but also by the quality of social interactions and the openness towards the outer world.

· Smart governance, which is evidenced in a culture that comprises aspects of public participation in Agenda 21, accessibility to government information, ease of e-payment and e-services.

· Smart mobility, which refers to the availability of information and communication technologies as well as modern and sustainable transport systems, embracing walking and cycling and use of public transportation.

· A smart environment, with attractive and accessible natural environments and efforts towards going green to promote environmental protection.

· Smart living, comprising various aspects of quality of life such as culture, health, safety, housing and tourism.

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