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Due to the breadth of technologies that have been implemented under the smart city label, it is difficult to distill a precise definition of a smart city.

Experts interviewed by Bernama recently share their thoughts of what makes a city ‘smart’ and their vision for a smart city. Some of the key words highlighted are liveable, technology, connectivity, people-centric, sustainability and unity building.

Malaysia Green Building Council president, Dr Serina Hijjas said in Europe, the focus is on elements such as a smart economy, intelligent finance, adept governance and comprehensive planning, all aimed at enhancing the residents’ quality of life.

“From my point of view, the first start (of establishing a smart city) is to create a liveable and sustainable city with digital technology that would enhance middle dynamic urban changes.

"We have observed a considerable influx of such initiatives, poised to initiate a transformation and act as a catalyst, particularly in reshaping the energy matrix and improving traffic mobility, among other pivotal aspects.

"What I aim to highlight here is how this integration becomes an essential component of the grid, effectively delivering energy, enhancing mobility, and fostering the creation of liveable spaces within the city," she said during a panel discussion titled 'Smart Green Cities of The Future From The Eyes of An Architect' at the Energy Transition Conference 2023 organised by Tenaga Nasional Berhad here recently.

LIVEABLE AND SUSTAINABLE SPACES

Taking Bandar Iskandar, Johor as an example of a smart city, Serina said mobility stands out as the largest contributor in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in that area.

"In the context of developing a smart city, the key objectives are to create liveable and sustainable spaces. Additionally, the second focus is on enhancing connectivity by advancing towards 5G technology, employing platforms like the Internet of Things (IoT).

"KL City has already embarked on its journey with IoT, data analysis, and a concept known as a 'digital twin', allowing us to virtually predict future challenges and needs," she said.

She said another significant aspect is embracing environmental intelligence that integrates natural-based solutions within the built environment, as already evident in Singapore with buildings harmonising with nature.

"Building smart involves managing energy, waste, and materials, under the Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) framework. We're actively considering scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, focusing on materials and waste efficiency to reduce carbon emissions in our efforts to mitigate climate change," she said.

CONVERT OLD BUILDINGS

In the long run, she noted, green buildings are projected to give better economic savings in terms of energy efficiency.

Serina, who is also the principal director and architect of Hijjas Kasturi Associate Sdn Bhd said that most significant contributor to energy consumption is buildings, encompassing both residential and office spaces.

"So far, it is not mandatory in our country to adopt green practices. Probably, Singapore stands as the only country globally where going green is compulsory.

"I believe that focusing on energy efficiency will help bridge the current gap. There exists a substantial opportunity for significant change - we can easily achieve 40 to 50 per cent improvement in energy efficiency in buildings today," she added.

Serina said in order to reduce energy demand in smart city initiatives, it is crucial to prioritise converting existing buildings into more energy-efficient structures.

"The biggest make up in our country is the existing building, which is around 85 per cent, as well as mobility. So if we can convert those buildings first into more energy efficiency, then you will have less energy demand.

"The National Energy Transition Roadmap (NETR) is a good start and a substantial catalyst for change. Our calculations show that a reduction of 10 megatons equates to a three per cent of total metric tonnes of GHG emissions," she said.

On Aug 29, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim launched the NETR, which will reinforce Malaysia’s commitment to achieve its net-zero GHG emission aspirations as early as 2050.

ENHANCE THE MSCF

On Sept 20, Local Government Development Minister Nga Kor Ming said his ministry has made Smart City a strategic initiative to address key challenges in making cities in Malaysia more productive, competitive, sustainable and liveable for current and future generations.

The Smart City concept was established in the Malaysia Smart City Framework (MSCF) in 2018, which is a key component to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in becoming a sustainable country by 2030.

Nga said Smart City initiatives must be expedited to promote a safer environment and efficient urban management practices, while also stressing the importance of leveraging information technology as part of urban management solutions.

Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) Seri Iskandar Campus Senior Lecturer, Dr Lim Seng Boon said the MSCF framework is ambitious, aiming at drafting 16 policies, 36 strategies, 112 initiatives, and numerous indicators of smart city components.

"It is also along with providing suggestions for governance arrangements, establishing a Communication Action Plan (CAP) or implementing a roadmap from 2019 to 2025 with identified lead agencies, presenting examples of five pilot city projects namely Kuala Lumpur, Johor Bahru, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, and Kulim, as well as demonstrating interface examples for the upcoming ‘My Smart City’ Dashboard.

“However, most of the baseline data for the indicators are country-level measurements, which might not be suitable or provide little information for the local authorities.

"Therefore, it is recommended that in the future, this framework should be elaborated for better implementation on the ground through separation into several topics and documents with greater flexibility and more room for expansion or improvement," he said.

He said one of the MSCF research outcomes is to bring Malaysia’s smart cities on par with global smart cities, especially on the competitiveness factor where there is a need to chase or follow others, which to a certain extent, is being nudged by others’ technological advancements.

"Instead, Malaysia should focus on building a united nation with an authentic citizenship regime that involves responsible citizens in the nation’s unity building, with citizens prioritising collective rights over individual rights and the government practising participatory governance.

"This responsible citizenship building is in line with the Yang Dipertuan Agong’s call for the rakyat to be more responsible in using communications technology and should not exploit the issues in ways that could be detrimental to national unity and harmony," he told Bernama.

PEOPLE-CENTRIC SMART CITY

A European Smart City consultant, Stephane Pean said smart cities are not just about technology — it’s about the people that live in it.

"A smart city is a city that uses innovation, data and technology rooted in local understanding and changing context, to shape more inclusive, liveable, and sustainable urban environments that benefit their citizens and residents.

"Sustainability is part of the cornerstone of any Smart City development - its procedures such as rehabilitation, regeneration or refurbishment of buildings are clearly in line with the 17 UN SDGs," he told Bernama.

Pean, who is also a former town planner said building smart cities doesn’t always equate to cutting edge technology or bigger, shinier tech. In fact, more appreciation can be shown for nature-based solutions, grassroots innovations, and low-tech but high-impact interventions that solve local problems, while leveraging on indigenous knowledge and empowering people.

"City planners can engage with communities and stakeholders, such as local authorities to identify their needs and priorities, and develop solutions that address those specific issues.

"This approach can lead to more inclusive and effective solutions, as it empowers communities to take an active role in shaping their own cities," he said.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Soon Li Wei

Quelle/Source: Bernama Fokus, 09.11.2023

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