COVID-19 pushes ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASNC)
COVID-19 has tested Vietnam’s leadership of ASEAN. During its tenure as chair of ASEAN in 2020, the country has introduced five priority plans to be implemented by this year, including strengthening ASEAN institutional capacity and using the Industrial Revolution 4.0 to address social inequality. Among the five priority plans is the application of smart technology in ASEAN smart city planning and COVID-19 advantages.
The global pandemic has made the “ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN)”, launched by the Southeast Asian bloc in April 2018, a top priority for ASEAN country leaders to think about as a short-term goal and because it has a vital role for the new course of ASEAN’s economic recovery and development. There are two major reasons for this urgency:
The first reason is that the COVID-19 vaccine has not been detected in time, at least for a while, and the situation has changed the way people work and communicate each other from face-to-face to using Zoom technology. This situation demonstrates how a microcosm of the virus can force human society to learn to use technology to further social activities and boost the economy.
This is a new lesson that everyone can learn – either the leaders of ASEAN or ordinary ASEAN people – that some unnecessary actions should be curtailed and replaced with a new technology-supported work style. As we have seen, this year’s ASEAN Summit was forced to go online on 14 April.
The use of digital technology for political economy operations is central to the design of smart cities. Or simply put, “smart cities” are the application of the digitization of operations and management of urbanization governance.
Therefore, seizing the opportunity that the people of ASEAN cities are beginning to use technology for economic activity, Vietnam may be in line with the ASEAN Plan of two years ago, to apply such smart technology for urban solutions. As such, Vietnam could prompt the immediate implementation of the ASCN project using technology to revitalize the economy and improve the lives of ASEAN people in the post-pandemic situation.
The second reason, in addition to being a model in response to COVID-19, Vietnam is currently showing its success to other ASEAN countries and can also be an example in achieving smart city success for the underdeveloped ASEAN bloc; the CLMV. In the process of achieving its smart city vision, the Hanoi Administration can share experiences and governance models of smart cities by using her own three cities: Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh.
Hanoi, has already launched the iParking program for driving in the city, and is integrating digitization into health, education, transport and tourism.
Danang, the future of VN smart city: Danang is transforming into a green city by adopting smart solutions for its urban governance. Now, the country’s central strategic city is starting to develop its own natural disaster management system using this high-tech system.
Ho Chi Minh City, the first future of VN Smart City: Taking advantage of its location in southern Vietnam, the city plans to become Vietnam’s first smart city and focuses on achieving five steps to achieve its integrated smart city ambitions. The five stages are: 1). Cloud computing infrastructure development, 2). Big data utilization, 3). Data Centre development, 4). Security Centre setup, and 5). The establishment of an open data ecosystem.
Once this plan is achieved, Vietnam will leave its important legacy as the ASEAN chair that brought ASEAN out of the socio-economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Since all 36 ASEAN cities have already planned their own city projects in the “ASEAN Smart Cities Action Plan“, what Hanoi can do is call for an online meeting with their respective national leaders and city governors to at least finalize the implementation schedule before the end of its chairmanship mandate.
The future of Cambodia’s smart cities
In particular, the future of Cambodia’s three smart cities – Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Battambang – were successfully integrated into the ASEAN Smart Cities Network in February last year. Although the process is a bit slow in terms of physical infrastructure compared to the three Smart Cities of Vietnam, Cambodia may also be able to take advantage of this COVID-19 challenge to take advantage of its smart city project by focusing on planning and building digital infrastructure for its smart city project and to stimulate economic growth like Vietnam.
The three pillars of the ‘ASEAN Smart Cities Network’ are: technological utilization, industrial automation and digitization of the economy. Of these, some have been gradually getting started in the governance of Vietnam’s three smart cities.