Smart city edges closer

Smart city edges closer

Greater availability of new digital technologies raises hopes that Bangkok can be transformed

With 10 million-plus residents, Bangkok needs effective ways for citizens to communicate with city administrators to ensure problems are solved. (File photo: Sarot Meksophawannakul)
With 10 million-plus residents, Bangkok needs effective ways for citizens to communicate with city administrators to ensure problems are solved. (File photo: Sarot Meksophawannakul)

A plan to transform Bangkok into a smart city is looking less far-fetched due to the availability of new digital technologies that can accelerate its digital transformation, says an academic who specialises in the field.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has already integrated some digital technologies into its handling of the capital’s problems and new development projects, said Assoc Prof Prapatpong Upala, director of the Smart City Innovative Research Academy (SCiRA) at King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL).

The integration is evident in projects aimed at improving infrastructure, tackling congestion and curbing seasonal ultra-fine PM2.5 dust pollution, said Assoc Prof Prapatpong, who also lectures at the School of Architecture, Art and Design at KMITL.

Most recently, he said, Traffy Fondue, the online communication platform introduced by governor Chadchart Sittipunt, has helped Bangkok’s smart-city transformation. With the app easily accessible and widely promoted, two-way communication between the BMA and the city’s residents has improved. The BMA is also able to respond much faster to the problems residents report, he said

“This has improved public satisfaction with the BMA’s work; more importantly, the online platform has improved public participation in the BMA’s development policy,” he said.

“In the next step to Bangkok becoming a real smart city, the BMA should adopt more information technology and other innovations for use in managing resources and urban planning.”

More technologists and innovators will be needed to work alongside the BMA to help drive it in the right direction. A key challenge is how to strike a balance between ensuring privacy and gaining more access to the personal data of Bangkok residents, which is needed for data analysis to improve these new technologies, he added.

Currently, this is safeguarded under the law on personal data protection, Assoc Prof Prapatpong said. The other key challenge the BMA will have to deal with is better budget management, which is crucial to ensuring the availability of the technologies required.

Amsterdam in the Netherlands, for instance, has been able to implement its smart city plan largely because the input of various sectors is coordinated by online platforms. South Korea, meanwhile, has developed an automatic rubbish-collecting and sorting system, while Barcelona has a data-collecting platform used to develop city infrastructure.

Learning from these and other models, the SCiRA and the BMA are now working on systems related to smart transport, smart disaster warnings, smart infrastructure, smart economy, smart land use and smart environment, he said.


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