SMART CITIES THAILAND AND AUSTRALIA
This week I had the opportunity to catch up on the Smart City movement in Thailand.
I was deeply impressed. I also hope that the movement in Thailand and in Australia have the chance to learn from each other.
Thailand must be the only place in the world where national news on TV is preceded by a banner reading SMART CITIES.
As I was struggling to understand the news on TV in Bangkok I saw the words (in English):
The news was actually about the deal that the government has scored with Jack Ma’s Alibaba, which is relevant to smart – to becoming a smart nation, in fact.
Jack Ma with Thai Premier Chan-Ocha
Picture: S China Morning Post
In essence, the Thai government has signed an agreement for Alibaba’se-retail portal to become a platform for Thai businesses to market products and services – initially to China, but eventually to all markets using the platform.
Initial products are likely to include Thai rice and durians (which are enjoying a huge popularity boom) but as small industries in many diverse sectors see the benefits, it will both spread to existing businesses and create new ones.
It is not hard to see that if the agricultural sector can profit from the data-sharing that this e-portal facilitates, then industry and education sectors in the cities will also latch on to the opportunities and value unlocked by smart data-sharing.
And this, essentially, is what the Smart City movement is aiming at.
I had the good fortune last time here to make contact with a Khun Suradech, associate deanat the University ofKhon Kaen, a city in the Northeast. This time around I visited Khon Kaen itself.
Mr Suradech, who is also CEO of a highly successful vehicle engineering company with world-wide contracts, was negotiating with the Central Government’s Office of Transport Policy and Planning for the city itself to build a 26-km light rail network around the municipality.
The Light Rail will be built on Smart principles, including sensors both to accurately measure passenger traffic and also the effect in terms of decreased vehicle traffic on the congested streets and roads.
It is easy to see how streamlined, efficient and affordable public transport would add competitive advantage to a community. Consider the amount of time wasted in daily commutes, in transporting goods, in people getting to the right location to carry out service jobs. Add this to the waste of manpower when people are unable to take up a job because of the cost or logistics of getting to work.
An overview of the plan is here– narrative is in Thai; but it’s not hard to get the sense of it.
As in other cities in the world (Bristol in UK; Barcelona Spain; Newcastle Australia) there is a long way to go in Khon Kaen. And both at Federal and City level, authorities in Thailand and Australia can learn from each other how best to forge a win-win from the situation.
About the author
Steve Mackay is founder of Creator Tech and previous to that had an extensive career in Cisco Systems, based in Beijing then Hong Kong. Steve has spent the last 3 years learning about IoT and Smart Cities from Geof Heydon and others. He was the youngest Drapers Scholar at William and Mary College, the 2nd oldest University in USA; and also studied Town Planning with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris.