AS Malaysia becomes more and more urbanised, it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the benefits of urbanisation are equitably shared and that no one is left behind.
Policies to manage urban growth need to ensure access to infrastructure and social services for all, focusing on the needs of the urban poor and other vulnerable groups for housing, transportation, education, healthcare, decent work and a safe environment.
The government needs to build not only self-contained cities but smart cities that will integrate information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.
A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve service delivery. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city’s infrastructure, monitoring what is happening, how the city is taking shape and how to ensure a better quality of life.
The six pillars needed to build a smart city are smart governance, smart economy, smart mobility, smart living, smart environment and smart people.
The last, the human factor, is crucial to a smart city. Since ICT is one of the main features of a smart city, residents need to have additional technological skills that allow them to interact with and benefit from their smart city as well as to help improve it.
The development and management of urban centres and smart cities is one of the major challenges of our time as well as one of the most complex tasks of our societies.
The major challenges of the 21st century are urban. And the concentration of development and human activities in our cities and towns has enormous implications for the urban population that finds the urban environment physically, psychologically and socially taxing.
Cities as we know them today are already dramatically changing. Our living environments are reshaping the way we live. This new “urban age” presents a unique opportunity for us to remake and reinvent our cities. How well we plan and design our living environments will matter.
The emergence of a host of complex urban problems has posed new challenges for urban administrators to search for new ways to make urban areas better living cities. Urban issues relating to the process of globalisation, environment problems, urban poverty, urban sustainability, the issue of urban governance and how to improve the quality of urban life are among the many issues that need to be addressed effectively.
With such complex issues arising from urbanisation, it is time for the government to set up an Institute for Urban Governance which can function as a national resource and training centre for urban governance and development. It can help to facilitate research activities, provide support to academicians and individuals to undertake research, and provide consultancy on urban issues.
The proposed institute can also provide support and policy advice to the government in urban governance, development and management.
The institute can be established with expertise from institutions of higher learning, research organisations and government agencies; it will conduct academic programmes in urban planning for local government officials and others to better manage our cities and towns.
Urbanisation should also lead to community spirit-building. Where new urban centres are built, proactive efforts must be taken to build a sense of community and belonging among the multiethnic residents, which will be beneficial to our multiracial country in terms of generating goodwill, togetherness and unity.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE , Kuala Lumpur