Smart Cities Research Initiative (SIRI)

Local Government Policies
towards Smart Cities in
the Asia Pacific Region

Hari Srinivas
Case Study Series E-206. November 2023.

Definition A smart city is an urban environment that leverages advanced technologies, data-driven insights, and citizen-centric approaches to enhance the efficiency, sustainability, and quality of life for its residents.

It integrates digital infrastructure, innovative solutions, and participatory governance to optimize urban services, improve resource management, foster economic growth, and create a more connected and inclusive urban experience.

With urban populations slated to be 50% of the total populations by 2050, cities in the Asia Pacific region will face a number of challenges in the future. Key among them will be rapid urbanization. Many cities in the region are experiencing rapid population growth and urbanization, leading to increased pressure on infrastructure, housing, and services.

Rapid urbanization and growth will bring with it, traffic congestion and transportation. The growth of urban populations has resulted in increased traffic congestion and strain on transportation systems, leading to longer commute times, air pollution, and reduced quality of life.

These will have significant impacts on environmental sustainability. Cities in the region often grapple with environmental challenges such as pollution, inadequate waste management, depletion of natural resources, and vulnerability to climate change impacts like rising sea levels and extreme weather events.

Population increase will also precipitate a housing affordability crisis. The rising demand for housing in urban areas has led to challenges in providing affordable and adequate housing options for residents, particularly for low-income groups.

It will also impact infrastructure development, where many cities will need to invest in improving and expanding infrastructure, including transportation networks, water and sanitation systems, power supply, and digital connectivity, to meet the needs of their growing populations.

Rapid urbanization can exacerbate social inequality, with marginalized communities facing issues related to access to basic services, education, healthcare, and employment opportunities. This can put pressure on governance and planning, as effective governance and urban planning are crucial for addressing the complex challenges faced by cities. Ensuring transparent and participatory decision-making processes, long-term planning, and effective implementation of policies can be challenging.

Other challenges include, for example, disaster resilience. The Asia Pacific region is prone to natural disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, and floods. Cities need to invest in disaster preparedness, early warning systems, infrastructure resilience, and efficient emergency response mechanisms.

Urban areas in the future will face health challenges related to air pollution, inadequate sanitation, crowded living conditions, and limited access to healthcare services. Addressing public health issues and promoting well-being are crucial for sustainable urban development.

Most cities are approaching the above challenges by going digital and using ICTs and other technologies to provide better services and manage urban areas more efficiently - including, and especially, adopting smart city policies to solve urban challenges.

The character of policies adopted by cities in the Asia Pacific region regarding smart cities varies considerably. Some common themes and characteristics that can be observed in many of these policies include, for example:

  • Technology Integration:
    One key aspect of smart city policies is the integration of technology and digital solutions into various aspects of urban life. Cities adopt policies that encourage the use of advanced technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), data analytics, and cloud computing to optimize urban services and infrastructure. This may include the deployment of sensors, smart grids, intelligent transportation systems, and digital platforms for citizen engagement.

  • Data-driven Decision Making:
    Many smart city policies emphasize the importance of data collection, analysis, and utilization. Cities aim to gather data from different sources, including IoT devices, sensors, and citizen inputs, to make informed decisions and improve the efficiency of urban services. Policies may focus on data sharing, open data initiatives, and the establishment of data platforms to enable data-driven decision-making by both governments and businesses.

  • Sustainability and Resilience:
    Smart city policies often prioritize sustainability and resilience. Cities aim to adopt technologies and practices that minimize environmental impact, conserve resources, and enhance resilience against natural disasters and climate change. Policies may include measures for energy efficiency, renewable energy adoption, waste management, green infrastructure, and climate adaptation strategies.

  • Citizen-Centric Approaches:
    Many policies highlight the importance of citizen engagement and participation in smart city initiatives. Cities aim to involve citizens in decision-making processes, encourage feedback and collaboration, and improve service delivery based on citizen needs. Policies may include the development of digital platforms, mobile applications, and online portals to enhance citizen-government interaction and provide access to information and services.

  • Collaboration and Partnerships:
    Smart city policies often emphasize the need for collaboration and partnerships between government, industry, academia, and the community. Cities recognize the importance of engaging different stakeholders to drive innovation, share resources, and collectively address urban challenges. Policies may encourage public-private partnerships, research collaborations, and the establishment of innovation ecosystems to foster smart city development.

  • Policy Flexibility and Adaptability:
    Smart city policies often acknowledge the rapidly evolving nature of technology and the need for flexibility. Cities recognize that policies should be adaptable to emerging technologies and changing urban needs. Flexibility may be reflected in policy frameworks that allow for experimentation, pilot projects, and iterative approaches to smart city implementation.
The overarching aim of smart cities in the Asia-Pacific region is to leverage technology, data, and innovative approaches to create more sustainable, efficient, and livable urban environments for citizens.

Many countries have implemented national level smart city policies, besides encouraging cities at the local level to implement specific projects and programmes on the theme.

For example, Singapore has implemented the Smart Nation Initiative, which focuses on leveraging technology and data to enhance the quality of life, sustainability, and economic opportunities for its citizens. The country has adopted various policies such as the Smart Nation Sensor Platform, which deploys sensors across the city to collect data for monitoring and managing urban services.

South Korea has established the "Smart City Construction and Promotion Act" to support the development of smart cities. The government has designated specific areas, such as Songdo International Business District and Sejong City, as smart city testbeds, where innovative technologies and urban solutions are implemented and evaluated.

Japan has introduced the "Fifth Generation Mobile Communications Systems Promotion Council" to drive the adoption of 5G technology in smart city development. The government has also launched the "Society 5.0" initiative, which aims to integrate advanced technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and IoT, to address societal challenges and create sustainable urban environments.

China has launched the "Smart City Pilot Project" to promote the development of smart cities across the country. It involves the implementation of digital technologies, intelligent transportation systems, energy-efficient infrastructure, and smart grids. Several cities, including Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Hangzhou, have been designated as pilot cities for this initiative.

In India, the government has launched the Smart Cities Mission, which aims to transform 100 cities into smart cities. Under this program, selected cities receive funding and support to develop smart solutions for various aspects, including governance, urban planning, transportation, and waste management.

Examples of City Level Smart City Policies
[Please note that the URLs provided are subject to change, and it's always a good idea to verify the official websites of the respective cities for the most up-to-date information on their smart city policies and initiatives.]

Coty/Country Policy characteristics Further information
Singapore Singapore is renowned for its smart city efforts. It has implemented the Smart Nation Initiative, which encompasses a wide range of policies and projects to leverage technology and data for urban development. Singapore's initiatives include the deployment of sensors for monitoring various aspects of city life, smart traffic management systems, smart homes, and a national digital identity system
Tokyo, Japan Tokyo has been actively promoting smart city concepts and initiatives. The city has implemented various projects focusing on energy efficiency, waste management, transportation, and disaster management. Examples include smart street lighting, intelligent transportation systems, and the utilization of ICT in disaster response and recovery
Seoul, South Korea Seoul has been at the forefront of smart city development in South Korea. The city has established a comprehensive smart city policy framework, including initiatives such as smart transportation systems, e-governance, and smart grids. It has also invested in the development of a smart city data platform to enable data-driven decision-making
Shenzhen, China Shenzhen is often considered a leading smart city in China. The city has embraced technology and innovation to transform various aspects of urban life. Shenzhen has implemented smart transportation systems, intelligent parking solutions, and extensive use of facial recognition technology for public services
Jaipur, India Jaipur is one of the cities selected under India's Smart Cities Mission. The city has undertaken numerous smart city projects, including the establishment of a centralized command and control center, intelligent traffic management systems, smart street lighting, and citizen-centric mobile applications for accessing services and information
Wellington, New Zealand Wellington has taken significant steps towards becoming a smart city. The city has focused on initiatives related to sustainability, resilience, and citizen engagement. It has implemented smart lighting, digital infrastructure for monitoring energy consumption, and open data platforms to encourage innovation and collaboration
Taipei, Taiwan Taipei has implemented several smart city initiatives, including the establishment of an integrated public transportation system, smart parking solutions, and the promotion of sustainable urban development. The city has also focused on digital innovation and citizen participation through platforms like the "Taipei Smart City Living Lab."
Auckland, New Zealand Auckland has been actively pursuing smart city strategies, particularly in the areas of transportation and sustainability. The city has introduced smart transportation solutions, including electric buses and integrated mobility platforms. Auckland also focuses on leveraging data and technology for environmental sustainability, such as water and energy management
Mumbai, India Mumbai, the financial capital of India, is undergoing transformation through its smart city initiatives. The city has implemented projects like intelligent traffic management systems, digitized public services, and integrated surveillance systems. Mumbai's smart city efforts aim to enhance transportation, waste management, and citizen engagement
Busan, South Korea Busan has embraced smart city technologies and policies to enhance its urban infrastructure and services. The city has implemented initiatives like intelligent transportation systems, smart street lighting, and the utilization of IoT technologies for energy management and waste reduction. Busan's smart city projects are aligned with its vision of becoming a sustainable and resilient city
Hong Kong, China Hong Kong has been actively exploring smart city strategies to improve the quality of life for its citizens. The city has implemented initiatives such as smart transportation systems, intelligent building management, and the use of technology for environmental monitoring. Hong Kong's smart city policies aim to enhance efficiency, sustainability, and livability
Brisbane, Australia Brisbane has made significant progress in its smart city journey, focusing on areas like transportation, energy, and digital innovation. The city has implemented smart transportation systems, including integrated ticketing and traffic management. Brisbane is also investing in renewable energy projects and utilizing data analytics to optimize urban planning and service delivery

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