is quickly moving towards the era of smart cities. With the release of policy
dividends and the massive fund investments, smart cities in China are thriving under
the massive surge of development. According to the Worldwide Smart Cities Spending Guide issued by the Internet Data
Center (IDC), in 2020 China has spent US$ 25.9 billion developing its smart
cities, a year-on-year increase of 12.7%. This is higher than the global
average and second only to the global average. As the country with the largest
expenditure after the United States, this figure is estimated to reach US$
38.923 billion in 2023. In fact, ongoing statistical research show the number
of smart cities in China has exceeded 500, making China the country with the most
smart cities in the world.
this, China faces numerous challenges in developing its smart cities, and they
are jarring issues at that, since most of the focus is loaded into the
construction and not its operations. Director of the Information and Industrial
Development Department of the National Information Center, and the Smart City
Development Research Center Shan Zhiguang believes that the current smart cities
in the country are far too focused on its construction, whilst leaving its management
and operational works more to be desired. He pointed out that many buildings are
erected without a clear purpose, and little thought is given to the people who
should manage, operate, and add value to it. Most of such cities are driven purely
by technology, and lack sustainability in their designs. This could lead to a
wastage in resources, even rendering its construction useless, which is like an
upscale residential area that has been built without any accompanying
facilities, and it is only a matter of time before it becomes rundown.
purpose do smart cities actually serve? Vice President of McKinsey Global
Institute China Cheng Zhengmin thinks the era of Smart City 1.0 had a top-down,
technology-for-science approach. Meanwhile Smart City 2.0 adopts a residents-centric
approach. This includes time and living cost savings, and safety improvements,
all which contributes to a healthy environment with employment opportunities and
achieve this, Zhengmin believes it is necessary for the Chinese government to
open up the barriers in every corner of smart cities, and think about the needs
of the residents. In the past, smart cities made the mistake of over-intelligentization
in specific scenarios and downplayed systematic connectivity. Smart cities are
a project of global optimization. This means economic prosperity, governance,
people's livelihood, and the wellbeing of various industries are vital to the cities.
The crucial component of a smart city is its people, and this does not just
include the residents, but also the builders and operators of these smart
cities. The future lies in successfully integration of business and technology,
management and business.
the issue of managing and operating smart cities has become a new bottleneck in
the development of smart cities for China. To resolve this issue, China needs
to successfully integration construction and operation together first, and improve
the liquidity of data to realize its maximum potential.
act of integrating construction and operation is otherwise known as the
integration of business and technology, and management. In this regard, the
best way is to let the builders of smart cities to assume the role of operators.
the past, developers and builders tend to focus concept delivery, but on a
superficial level. Once the cities are built, the builders would leave the management
to a third party, without further utilizing the data of the cities.
days, the local governments has made it a pre-requisite for smart city builders
to provide a comprehensive plan. Some cities even deemed it compulsory for builders
to pre-invest before bidding. That way, they can assume the identity of an
operator, which benefit smart cities. On one hand, the builders are familiar
with their work, which allows them to manage the cities with ease. On the other,
it places additional burden on them as they need to spend additional time
ideating on the operations in the early stages of the project, which involves planning
ahead and ensuring it is problem-proof for most parts later on.
way to improve the management and operation of smart cities is to improve the
circulation of data. If the data collected through software and hardware cannot
be circulated without obstacles, then the value of the data will be greatly
reduced. For example, smart software has played an important role in curbing
the COVID-19 outbreak in China, and they boast a large amount of data. However,
in some cities, cross-regional, cross-level, and cross-departmental data
sharing has not been established, resulting in the inability to achieve active
and accurate tracking.
the development of smart cities, after the government's information-based
construction, infrastructure coordination and other stages, the next will be
the critical stage of data coordination. Only by breaking down the barriers
between government departments and pulling data together can China enter a new
stage of business integration. Systems-wise, China has established a Big Data
administrative department that is specifically tasked with the interconnectivity
of data, though there is still room for improvement. This Big Data
administrative department has yet to break the information barriers between
government departments. It is therefore necessary to further strengthen its
power of information and data management.
the data between private enterprises also needs to be circulated and shared.
However, due to business confidentialities and other reasons, many companies
have difficulty trusting each other when participating in smart city
operations. Consequently, the project fails to achieve the expected results or
is abandoned halfway. For example, AutoNavi, a Chinese navigating service
provider, took the lead in developing a smart city project to improve the
efficiency of road use. It needed the web mapping service application Baidu
Maps to share certain data to improve the integrity of Big Data, yet it is difficult
for companies to coordinate with one another. Technically, the government can
take the reins and use its credibility to coordinate the data resources between
both parties. That being said, it can let relatively neutral data holders in
other industries such as Huawei, to take the reins too, as a way to prevent vicious
business competition between enterprises of the same category.
In short, if a smart city wants to develop
sustainably, technology should not be its only prime focus. In fact, it needs
to focus on top-level designs, streamlining operations and integrated growth.
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