How Smart Solutions can Help ASEAN Cities Improve Quality of Life?

Intelligent traffic lights and emergency response applications could save around 5,000 lives lost each year in accidents

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As cities in south-east Asia are expanding rapidly, so is the hunger for better life. A new report by McKinsey Global Institute shows that smart solutions could help improve the quality of urban life by 10 to 30 per cent.


Recent research from the New York-based McKinsey Global Institute highlights that smart cities across the world are incorporating data and digital technologies into infrastructure and services, and as a result, delivering tangible quality-of-life improvements.

The Mckinsey Global Institute report “Smart Cities in Southeast Asia”, a joint effort of the institute and the Centre for Liveable Cities in Singapore, says smart solutions like intelligent traffic lights and emergency response applications could save around 5,000 lives lost each year due to traffic accidents, fires and murders. While this is just one example of how smart solutions can improve the living standards of people, there are several applications that are helping cities address issues, related to infrastructure, healthcare among others. Doc Doc and mClinica, for example, are the emerging tech-based startups in the e-health space.

“Deploying smart healthcare solutions for the urban population could reduce the region’s disease burden by 12 million disability-adjusted life years—not only extending overall life expectancy but adding years of good health. Almost 1.5 million additional jobs could also be created by creating a better hiring environment through digital applications. Also, residents could also save as much as $16 billion annually as smart solutions contribute to better housing options and lower energy bills,” says the report.

Building a Smarter Ecosystem

The objective of building a smarter ecosystem can only be achieved when the public and private sector work together. The collaboration of government and private sector companies can help cities through public-private partnerships in ASEAN countries with projects in the water, energy and land transport sectors said a report published in Dec 2015 by Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asian in Jakarta.

Some private companies in Southeast Asia have found a foothold in advancing these solutions in the region. Smart mobility applications, such as those implemented by Indonesia’s Go-Jek and Singapore-based Grab, could create up to $70 billion in value across Southeast Asia, says a McKinsey report published in July on “Smart Cities: Digital Solutions for a more Livable Future”.

It adds that smart technologies like drones, artificial intelligence, data-driven risk management system and intelligent traffic systems can help reduce the number of road accidents in ASEAN countries.

Building on previous research, McKinsey Global Institute says smart solutions, like using greener building materials, could remove up to 270,000 kilotonnes of greenhouse gas emissions each year.

Jonathan Woetzel, director of McKinsey Global Institute, and senior partner, McKinsey & Company in Shanghai, says that cities need to act quickly to address growing environmental stresses and combat climate change.

The "Smart Cities in Southeast Asia" report concludes that there is already a wave of innovation across the region from contributions made by private-sector companies, but the companies need to become more open to partnering with players from other industries for swift growth.