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Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo

May 12, 2023

Smart cities

Cities of the future will be greatly different from today. The fast-paced development of technologies, including the internet of things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and blockchain, has also rapidly changed the way we live.

According to the United Nations, “digital technologies have advanced more rapidly than any innovation in our history – reaching around 50 percent of the developing world’s population in only two decades and transforming societies.”

Amid this high-speed development, the term “smart city” has been coined to describe the use of information and communications technology (ICT) and innovation to improve the urban environment.

Developing smart cities not only means having the latest and disruptive technology, but also ensuring that the use of ICT will lead to improved quality of life, greater prosperity and sustainability, and engaged and empowered citizens.

In 2018, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) established the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN), a collaborative platform where cities from the 10 ASEAN Member States work toward the common goal of smart and sustainable urban development.

The ASCN has initially identified 26 pilot cities, which for the Philippines include Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City. The Philippines committed to accomplishing smart city projects, such as the Command Center Upgrade and E-government Services in the City of Manila; the Bus Rapid Transit System and Digital Traffic System in Cebu City; and the Converged Command and Control Center and Intelligent Transportation and Traffic Systems with Security in Davao City.

According to a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), while the country has begun its path toward building smart cities, issues such as operational costs and lack of interoperability are among the biggest challenges.

It said that local government units (LGUs) need to set up the necessary ICT infrastructure and systems needed to operate smart city initiatives, and while majority of LGUs have existing basic ICT infrastructure, ensuring the continuous upgrade of their systems to match the rapid growth of the technology industry can be very costly.

New Clark City, a project by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and various private sector companies, is expected to be the country’s first smart, resilient and green metropolis.

According to BCDA President and Chief Executive Officer Aileen R. Zosa, the development of New Clark City aims not only to decongest Metro Manila but also provide a catalyst to spread growth in Central Luzon and other provinces. Once fully developed, New Clark City is projected to become the home of about one million residents, and provide job opportunities to around 600,000 Filipinos.

The BCDA has lined up several high-impact projects and programs in New Clark City, particularly in the fields of sustainable development, renewable energy, ICT, estate management, transportation, tourism and smart city technologies, among others.

We hope these programs can be replicated in other cities in the country. While it may take time before our urban centers become fully smart cities, the transformation must already begin now, in order for us to keep up in this fast-paced world.

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