The Remarkable Missing Smart Piece (and Why is Taiwan Missing in Action?)

Although the Smart Communities movement is in its very early days – my view, not shared by some of the pundits out there – there have already been several Australian expeditions to high-profile “Smart Cities” like Amsterdam and Barcelona.

Australia, however, is geographically located in Asia-Pacific, which has seen the fastest sustainable economic growth over the last 2 decades; and is increasingly birthplace to some World-leading innovations (think AliPay; the digital enablement of HeMa supermarketHuawei’s 5G; …).

smart city

 Photo credits: Produce Report

So: why are there so few linkups between Australian and Asian cities?

Is it because there is no thought-leadership in these cities? Or no thought-leadership in Australia? Or because Australia is, still, overly Caucasian in its thinking?

Are there 2 ships passing in the night – an Aussie ship, which is good at using other folks’ inventions; and an Asian (or Chinese?) ship, good at creating inventions?

Do both sides just throw their hands up because of language/cultural differences?

It’s like a missing piece in an otherwise smart  jigsaw. Quite remarkable, really.

There have, to be sure, been exchanges of ideas with Singapore and with Hong Kong. That’s business as usual though, between 3 ex-British colonies –two of which are cities as well as states, so whatever steps they take to move forward at a national level also are “City” initiatives.

In China, the burgeoning and very active Smart City movement is overshadowed by, and could effectively become a subset of, the Belt-&-Road initiative. It would be unfair to say no attention has been paid by Australia to China – although it is surprising how few Aussie innovations see the light of day in the Peoples’ Republic.

In South Korea , a number of initiatives – here, they are driven by the chaebol, such as Samsung or LG. There are small-scale developments in Thailand and Malaysia – I hope to describe these in future articles. However, one notable place “missing in action” is Taiwan. After all, it is the place of production for huge numbers of the components essential to innovation.


How come none of Kaohsiung, Taichung, Tainan or Taoyuanappear in Smart Communities articles?

Why the deathly silence from Taipei/New Taipei?smart city

Photo credits: Wikimedia Commons

One answer – “no financial support from Central Government”. But this is a poor excuse. Other places – such as Barcelona, Bristol and Adelaide – have kick-started their Smartness with revenue-generating or cost-saving projects such as LED lighting or Smart Bins.

Such projects lead a way in enabling the council to better serve its community AND make financial sense at the same time.

Conclusions:  – there is not enough idea exchange between Australian and Asia cities: both parties are losing out on opportunities and advancement. And, someone who should be a Leading Light in this movement, is currently Missing in Action.


Creator Tech is pleased to have been commissioned by Combs Alliance to undertake an Australian IoT study. The 3-month study culminated in a report launched by Federal Minister Paul Fletcher- this can be accessed HERE.

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.

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