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Qiu Baoxing: Creating a Sound Track for the Independent Development of Smart Cities

Date: 2018-03-07

A review of the history of smart cities shows that many cities only pay attention to exogenous growth while the independent development of the smart systems remains inadequate. If smart cities don’t pursue independent growth, they risk deviating from the goals and track of development and losing the focus of development. Making science-based smart city standards and assessment system provides a track for the independent and sound development of smart cities.

Four things are important for successful smart cities. First, the development of smart cities represents a process of technological innovation and institutional changes and involves urban problems and people’s awareness. It is not a “one-off” design, which will only result in rigidity, not smart cities.

Second, the growth and progress of smart cities is the result of cooperation, coordination, integration and innovation of technical and design teams and government authorities. Therefore, smart cities by no means end when construction is complete. In the past, IT companies failed because they paid much attention to project building and little attention to system integration. Many local government officials also mistakenly believed that ICT companies design and build smart systems, which are then delivered to the government for launch and operation. As a matter of fact, qualifies smart systems always evolve to tackle emerging problems and challenges and to meet new needs.

Third, the development of smart cities represents a problem-oriented process based on the government provision of smart public goods and market supply of smart commercial goods. It should not be undertaken by the government alone, nor should it be contracted to IT companies. It is a new thing that calls for collaboration of all stakeholders.

Fourth, smart cities will be upgraded from basic versions 1.0, to thematic versions 2.0 and comprehensive versions 3.0. Success won’t be accomplished overnight.

Any complicated system has a deep structure. Attention must be paid to three deep levels in building smart cities.
First, the core public goods in a smart city. The core of urban work is to provide adequate and high-quality public goods to energize businesses and create a better life for the people. Therefore, city governments must focus on the provision of public goods in smart cities. This is like laying the foundation for building houses. The stronger the foundation, the higher the building.

Second, the main public goods in smart cities. These include many sectors and industries including energy conservation and emission reduction, urban transportation, urban water services, planning and construction, pollution treatment, cybersecurity, and disaster mitigation and reduction. There are the most important factors affecting the living environment and competitiveness of cities.

Third, the commercial goods of smart cities. If the above mentioned two types of public goods can be provided, the foundation will be built for smart cities. The diverse commercial public goods such as e-commerce, smart healthcare, smart education, smart tourism and bicycle sharing can be provided by companies. These public goods will complement the previous two categories and make up a diverse smart city system. The government, therefore, should not overreach and take on what can be done by businesses. The smart system of public goods is the foundation for the independent development of smart cities and a channel to help and guide companies in contributing to smart cities.

(The author is Qiu Baoxing, Counsellor of the State Council and former Vice Minister of Housing and Urban-Rural Development.)