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The lone story on page 5 of a major daily last Monday had this headline: Phl affirms support for Asean Smart Cities Network. On page 4 of that same issue, the lone story had this headline: DOJ denies harassment in P108-M tax raps vs Rappler.

Even if your level of discernment were just the size of a mustard seed, you would readily scream “What?” Given that there is no way of reconciling the two, I will explain.

A “smart city” is an urban area that uses the tools of information and communications technology to do things the smart, modern and efficient way. Whether the concern is smart governance, smart transportation and mobility, smart healthcare, smart infrastructure, or smart power/energy grid, the ultimate goal of a smart city is to create a smart citizenry. These are citizens who are not only grounded on technology but are also aware and informed, with civic virtues embedded in them so they can always make the right political and economic choices; citizens who are both better off economically and aware politically.

Smart cities are not solely about the massive and efficient use of various technologies in urban areas. Ultimately, the purpose is to empower the lives of the urban dwellers.

A free and independent media, media entities that use new technologies to the hilt, in particular, are in the ideal world, part and parcel of smart cities. In this world of the ideal, a media entity like Rappler would be a smart fit for an urban area with smart city dreams. Rappler, after all, was built – and functions – on the ICT parameters preferred by smart cities. One click, it is there.

I am a creature of traditional media – ink and print. I even started during the heyday of copyboys.

I rarely go to the Rappler site. But you have to recognize that Rappler is a pioneer.

Instead of giving it tax breaks for its pioneering media and information work, why is our Department of Justice charging Rappler with tax evasion? Our tax holiday laws are so nimble and pliable that they can grant breaks to companies with dubious “pioneering status” claims. Rappler is definitely a media pioneer and yet, the DoJ is now charging it with tax evasion with the unsmart agenda of closing it down. And shutting down an ICT-based media entity such as Rappler because it is not liked by the government is so 20th century. Such actions are the antithesis of the kind of tolerance and free flow of information desired by smart cities.

‘Smart’ tolerates dissent, criticism

A smart city tolerates dissent and criticism, and encourages free debates and contending views. Let a thousand thoughts contend, because such tolerance makes smart cities smarter.

On the Rappler case, the smart city dream of our sad Philippines and its supposed role in fostering that dream across the Asean fails the test of what the Marxist call “praxis,” the fusion of theory and practice. Smart city dreams and shutting down pioneering ICT-based media entities such as Rappler that enhance the flow of news and information are not two compatible actions.

Walk the talk dear Sirs, if you really want our urban areas to be flourishing smart cities.

Most gridlocked urban area

In what other area does the smart city dream fails the test of praxis? In transportation and mobility, definitely.

Metro Manila is one of the most gridlocked urban areas in the world. According to the updated figures from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the cost of the endless gridlocks in Metro Manila is P3.5 billion daily.

The problem, based on data-driven analysis, is the dominance of cars and other private vehicles that have carrying capacity of one-and-a-half passengers per trip. Cars and private vehicles make up 75 percent of vehicles on EDSA, the choked main road, at any given time. Buses, both metro and provincial, make up just 25 percent. The carrying capacity of buses is 35 passengers during the non-commuting hours and 50 to 60 passengers during the peak rush hours.

So, what is the solution being offered by the MMDA and other “experts?” It is the stupidest traffic solution ever offered in any urban area in the word – rein in the buses, the efficient mass carriers.

How stupid is this and how does this bizarre, crazy and antediluvian policy compare with the really smart Asean cities like Singapore?

In Singapore, the smartest urban area in the Asean, buses are king. And it is almost impossible to own a car. Given that traffic policies are undergirded by science and empirics, the true hallmark of a smart city. The convoy of the prime minister gives way to buses because the buses are deemed to have the priority on road use.

Our traffic management policies are focused 100 percent on reining in the buses. Provincial buses, now commuter buses, in the sense that they ferry daily commuters from Southern Tagalog and Central Luzon, are being forced to cut their trips and stop at terminals to prevent their entry into Metro Manila.

The much-hailed PITX terminal is actually anti-data and anti-science. Meanwhile, a feeble attempt to ban drivers-only-vehicles at EDSA was aborted after a senator with clear links to car dealers raised hell about the supposed violation of the “constitutional” rights of cars with a single passenger each.

The transport and mobility policies of genuinely smart cities are these.

Reclaim the roads from cars.

Encourage people to do three things: walk, bike, take mass transport.

Overall, if we have legitimate dreams of building smart cities, we should do one urgent thing – reset and start doing the smart things. More than that, our dear leaders should be guided not by their antediluvian side but by their better angels.


Autor(en)/Author(s): Marlen V. Ronquillo

Quelle/Source: The Manila Times, 25.11.2018

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