With over half the world’s population living in cities and still growing, government and city planners are leaning towards the concept of  ‘smart city’.

The hunt for the future city model may yet lead them to the biggest economic development zone Malaysia, Iskandar Malaysia, the Southeast Asia’s largest Mega region and three times the size of neighboring Singapore.

In 2006, the 2,217 sq km of economic growth corridor in southern Johor Malaysia launched a high-impact development to help bring the country’s first world economy under a 20-year plan.

Iskandar Malaysia smart city
Iskandar Malaysia smart city

Four months ago, a distinguished panel of international business economics science, and technology, initiated by the government of Malaysia and New York Academy of Sciences give the nod to Iskandar Malaysia in the “Smart City”.Smart cities are dependent on the use of extensive and innovative information and communication technologies (ICT) to share resources and plan for living economic, environmental and social towards better quality and sustainable.

“We took the challenge and establish our own definition of Smart City, which is anchored on the three pillars of Iskandar Malaysia – economic, environmental and social,” said Datuk Ismail Ibrahim chief executive of IRDA, a British- trained city planner.

The idea of Smart Cities and Smart Village is persuaded by modern science and technology agenda for the inaugural meeting of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) chaired by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in New York in May 2011.

GSIAC count two Nobel prize-winning and world famous economist Jeffrey Sachs are among the international members. It is an advisory board to the Malaysian government to change the country into a high income economy by 2020.”There are some countries such as South Korea and Japan says it is a lifestyle defined by 100 percent use of ICT, while in Europe, the definition is more holistic and not limited to ICT,” said Ismail.

Iskandar Malaysia to draw best practices from two schools of thought, and added its own. It took into account the diversity of the state to targets such issue as racial harmony.

The vision, Ismail added, is to change the quality of life and economic growth in developing smart, connected communities and includes all five main zones – the capital of the state of Johor Baharu, Nusajaya, Western Gate Development, Eastern Gate Development and Senai-skudai.

Overcoming Challenges of Iskandar Malaysia

Between 2005 and 2025, the population of Iskandar Malaysia is expected to double to three million with 1.27 million jobs. Gross Domestic Product is expected to move from $20 billion to $93.3 billion and per capita income twice as high at $31,100.Ismail said the private sector should be the main influence in launching the Smart City while IRDA as a facilitator to solicit public-private partnerships where feasible.

The diversity of the five main priority areas means IRDA need to target, when and how the implementation of specific initiatives and also interact with the local community to support future changes.

“Technology and private sector investment is a major factor but we need to remember the support of the people is equally important. We have to keep them informed so they understand fully what is happening, what the Smart City, how changes will affect their lives, what are the benefits and opportunities for them.

“It is a big challenge. Collaboration with government, the private sector and communities should be an ongoing process to keep all parties in harmony to achieve the established standards, ” said Ismail.Early initiatives in place, including e-procurement for tenders and contracts, the increased use of e-government to improve public services and social SafeCam surveillance, introduction of bus rapid transport, set up police stations and public awareness programs in low-carbon lifestyle.

Iskandar Malaysia Front Run

Private sector kicked into gear with Nusajaya, a single greenfield site and the core of the development of Iskandar Malaysia icon, get a head start.

It will be a Smart City with a digital masterplan of Cisco Systems in partnership with Iskandar Investment Berhad and UEM Land Holdings Berhad.

“Nusajaya has the potential to become a leading model for Smart + Connected Communities vision of Cisco worldwide. All the right elements in place – the involvement of the government, the developer and visionary private-sector ecosystem expertise,” said Anil Menon, president for globalization and Smart + Communities in Cisco, when the project was announced in July this year.In the first Legoland in Asia, the world famous Pinewood Studios, College of international education and modern residential enclaves, Nusajaya envisioned as a global benchmark for the design construction and operation of Smart City.

Iskandar Malaysia, which is now second phase of five years, attracting more and more domestic and international, nudging the total investment of RM100 billion mark by the end of this year against the target of RM382 billion in 2025.

Heavy Government Support

Ismail said IRDA will soon have a team to oversee and coordinate the project with six banded target – Smart Economy, Smart Environment, Smart People, Smart Mobility, Smart Social and Smart Living.The government has moved quickly to meet the security in Iskandar Malaysia with project SafeCam collaboration with stakeholders, especially government agencies, associations of citizens, business and private sectors.

The initiative, which is from the Project Griffin successfully by

the London Metropolitan Police started in 2004 to combat terrorism, allow police to access nearly 20,000 closed-circuit television cameras installed in the area of government and public in the fight against crime.

“This is one of the most advanced development in Iskandar Malaysia under the Smart Living area of focus. I must say that the implementation of the Smart City, does not need to change the general plan for Iskandar Malaysia because the development pillars are similar, ” said Ismail.

Ismail said IRDA will continue to work with federal agencies such as the Malaysian Industry Government Group for High Technology (MIGHT), Performance Management and Delivery Unit (PEMANDU) and Multimedia Development Corporation (MDeC) in shaping Iskandar Malaysia smart city

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