At the Singapore Innovation Hub (source – Accenture)

Planning future cities in APAC

Covid-19 may have created new lifestyles, but for future cities, the pandemic enabled them to design better smart urban solutions that can not only address health issues but both economic and environmental challenges as well.

As the Asia Pacific prepares to live with COVID-19 as endemic, having the right infrastructure in place, especially in developing cities, is crucial. The use of modern technology is enabling this, especially with solutions that can address urban challenges that hinder the progress of sustainable smart cities, such as increased energy consumption, growing traffic volume, and increased public safety threats.

According to Accenture and MIT Technology Review’s latest report 21st Century Cities: Asia Pacific’s Urban Transformation, cities across the region are exploring innovative and creative responses to social, economic, and ecological challenges. For instance, Singapore, through coordinated planning and policy innovation, has successfully transformed itself into a global metropolis with among the best livability metrics in the world.

The report also showed that:

  • Leading Asia Pacific cities are pioneering sustainable innovation, offering ideas to their peers in the region and globally – APAC cities are pioneering new approaches to city planning to leverage nature-based resilience, such as China’s “sponge cities” and the urban forests of Melbourne. Innovators are using cloud computing, artificial intelligence, and big data to enable circular economy supply chains, optimize traffic, and track extreme weather disasters to ensure a swift and effective response.
  • Inclusive tech can make cities better for everyone – Geospatial innovation is helping citizens who live in areas of unplanned development or without a formal address to access employment opportunities, facilities, and emergency services. This is done via consumer apps that are adapting their offerings to support vulnerable groups, including live location sharing, female-specific ride-sharing, and crowdsourcing data for safety assessments on potentially risky areas.
  • Despite positive initiatives and projects, there are gaps between the ideal of more sustainable, inclusive cities and reality on the ground – As the first wave of “smart city” thinking tended to be overly technology-centric, more constructive approaches with a deeper understanding of the experiences and desires of the varied urban communities are needed to focus on the key challenges. Once these have been established, then appropriate solutions can be deployed, with the right technology.
future cities

(source – Accenture)

“A smart city strategy needs to be anchored in what experiences you want to enable in all your stakeholders: citizens, tourists, and business travelers. Then you can start thinking about the commercial models, but they must be anchored in experience, as opposed to technology,” said Jurgen Coppens, Managing Director, Accenture Strategy.

In Singapore, Accenture unveiled the Singapore Innovation Hub which will focus on pillars such as adaptive cities planning, mobility, safety and security, and sustainability. The aim is to have future cities relying on technologies like digital twins and AI models to simulate a range of environments and scenarios. Urban planners can assess and optimize the effectiveness of building designs and evacuation Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) even before a critical incident occurs.

“The impetus is now here for countries to take transformative actions towards creating cities that are more sustainable and resilient. At the same time, the intersection of digitalization and energy transition is providing an opportunity for cities to reimagine how services can be delivered and paving the way for game-changing innovations that will revolutionize citizen engagement” said Ng Wee Wei, country managing director, Accenture in Singapore.

With future cities anchored in the collective experience for the people who will participate in it, the Singapore Innovation Hub is built as a collaborative space enabling residents, communities, industry, academia, and governments to participate and immerse themselves in digital possibilities and bring about innovative urban solutions that are inclusive and accessible for everyone. Ng hopes the hub can nurture future-ready talent and cultivate the sustainability mindset which is the heart of true smart city success.

The launch of the Singapore Innovation Hub was officiated by the Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of Health, Dr. Janil Puthucheary.

“The cliché is not to use technology for technology’s sake, but it must deliver real-life benefits to the people. We need to make that cliché live. And while many of us are fortunate to live out and experience those benefits, we have to make sure that the journey is an inclusive one, that we become an increasingly inclusive nation where it is not just the most digitally savvy, the most digitally privileged that have access to these benefits, but all Singaporeans have access to, understand, and know how to use digital tools,” said the minister.