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Updated: Jan 4

Nothing is impossible! But turning Jakarta into a “Smart City” may be close. This is the challenge that my team have set me as we try to create the best scenarios to move forward to create “Sustainable Solutions for Indonesia” under our MVB Sustainability Consultants banner, but linking this challenge to our parallel involvement with Jakarta through NOW! Jakarta magazine and all our joint activities, including the ‘Say Less to Less’ program.

A Smart City means different things to different people, depending on what aspects of the city we are talking about. In general, “being smart” to large extent can be associated with:

*Having access to better information to make more informed decisions

*Empowering the city to improve the life of its citizens through improve delivery of public services

*Providing solutions to urban growth challenges (of which we have many!) Noted researchers Frost and Sullivan defined a Smart City as “one that has an active presence and plans in at least five of the eight criteria noted below and has clearly demonstrated projects in place.” These criteria are:

  • Smart Governance

  • Smart Energy

  • Smart Buildings

  • Smart Mobility

  • Smart Infrastructure

  • Smart Technology

  • Smart Healthcare

  • Smart Citizens

There are number of variations on what a ‘Smart City’ should be, mostly coined by the Nordic Countries, who have almost all succeeded in turning their capitals and often regional cities as well into Smart Cities. So, this is possible, and already demonstrated, where the population is small and well educated, the government is switched on and agile, and the public service and utilities are tech-savvy and innovative. Denmark with a total country population of 5.8 million and Copenhagen with a population of 1.3 million is great example.

So, there’s Challenge One for Smart City Jakarta: how to get Depok, Bogor, Bekasi, and Tangerang, the “dormitory” cities, to join in, and play ball. There is a lot of interconnectivity and not enough cooperation. For example, that’s where the journey to work, for millions of commuters, starts and if there is no public transport there, leading seamlessly to the main trunk routes into the city, Joe Public will simply get on his motorbike and go all the way to work. He will not stop at a bus stop and change mode. He may stop at the MRT if there is good easy parking, cheaply available, but only then. But there is no readily available motorcycle parking to change mode except at Ragunan as far as I know. So, the Challenge for traffic improvement has to include the surrounding cities and does not at the moment.

Advancement in emerging technology such as Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI), and data analytics opens up tremendous opportunities to create smart solutions and value-added services which were not possible before. But these technologies also increase risks when the systems to create services and solutions are fully dependent on them.

We also have to be aware that the role critical infrastructure plays in allowing a city to function also poses increased risk and we need to recognise the importance of securing such assets. The key high-level challenges faced when implementing a Smart City have been identified with a focus on the growing concern of cyber threats.

An integrated, dynamic and secure operation centre is a real necessity in a converged environment where data and intelligence from various devices, systems and applications are collected and analyzed for better planning and management by various related departments, who are ready and able to handle this data!

Second Challenge: again, on traffic:

We need to extend the MRT to cover all of Jakarta. Why was it stopped at one line of 21KM? Yes the second, extension  line is now being built, but London with a comparatively similar population of 9.3 million has 421KM of underground track! Jakarta needs at least the same but with more rolling stock to accommodate twice as many passengers. Progress is simply too slow.

They comes the crunch: how to persuade Joe and Jane to leave their motorcycle at home, or even better sell them? To achieve that we need five things:

- One: a genius who will come up with a method to recycle or repurpose motorcycles so they have a post transport value.

- Two: a transit system so comprehensive that no-one needs to walk more than 500 metres to their bus or train.

- Three: education and public service announcements to explain again and again the benefits of the system.

- Four: disincentives and penalties for not using public transport. This could be easily done: ban all on-road parking for motorcycles, (that’s pretty much all they have) and ban them from specific roads (i.e the city centre). Illegal parking and illegal access will result in confiscation, and that’s when we start to reduce numbers, quickly.

- Five: incentives and benefits: when the mass transit is in place (and this can be done by attacking access roads one by one eg from Depok this month, from Bekasi in 3 months time etc., phase it in)

- Offer motorcycle owners three things if they hand in their motorcycles voluntarily:

- 1. A cash reward

-  2. A bicycle

- 3. A three years free pass on buses and MRT/LRT. The we need “the genius” to take 10 million motorcycles and turn them into something productive? Fishing boat engines? Water pumps? Drone engines? Waste to energy plants? There has to be something brilliant out there. If not, we just scrap them for the metal.

The target has to be reducing motorcycle dependence from 10 million to less than 1 million in three years.

Please note: Japan (who have profited more than anyone for our foolish obsession with Hondas, Suzukis, Kawasakis, etc) does not have motorcycle problems. They exported it brilliantly to us. These beasts have become a category all on their own. There now so many them, both privately owned and in the so-called public transportation segment (Gojek and Grab) that they are literally a plague. The incredible laziness and ineptitude of the city (and national) governments to nip the problem in the bud has left Jakarta with a population almost totally dependent on outmoded, noisy, dangerous and polluting machines.

The fact that people think that it’s efficient and cheap, makes it even worse. It’s not. The cost to the planet in terms of the fuel and pollution alone is worth an outright ban. But that’s not possible so we need to be smart and seek creative and appealing solutions.

To those of you who have experienced the delight of a great mass transit system: Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, London, Paris, etc will understand the huge relief from stress that it brings:

You know you can get to any destination on time, in peace, at a specific affordable cost, with no pollution, no parking, no-refueling, no maintenance, no hassle with weather, or accidents (which happen all the time here). So why, oh why hasn’t Jakarta actually done the work to create one? The answer, as usual, lies in politics, greed, corruption, and lack of education, as we note above.

But What is the Answer?

But what is the solution? First whatever we do we need to dramatically and immediately make public transportation available to all, on all routes, at all times. What we have is not enough to persuade Joe and Jane Public to change his/her habits. We need to probably double the number of buses and minibuses, especially minibuses which have to go down every feeder road, street and alley in Jakarta and especially surrounding areas, to make sure everyone has easy and quick access, as we have noted above. Critical infrastructure also plays an important role in ensuring the quality of life of citizens. A Smart City is only as smart as the reliable functioning of its critical infrastructure such as public transportation, but also healthcare, utilities, energy, public safety and emergency services. With the adoption of emerging technologies such as IOT, Edge Computing, and AI, these services can be integrated to provide seamless and value added services.

Critical infrastructure is defined as systems, whether physical or virtual, so vital to the city that the incapacity or destruction of such systems would have a debilitating impact on city’s physical security, economic security, citizen’s health or safety, or any combination of those matters.

Water: just because we have floods with water everywhere does not mean there is no water crisis. Far from it. It shows we have no comprehensive, integrated, planned water management either for “run-off” water, or waste water, or fresh water. The problem is that for years, at least since independence everyone has thought “water is free”. The amazing aquifers under Jakarta have supplied millions of people with water for just the price of digging a well (which used to be done by hand!) and a pump.

Then came the era of ‘city water’, through the inaccurately named Perusahaan Air Minum, which implied that it was of drinking quality, which it is not, but it is relatively clean, free from particulate matter, toxins and harmful substances. This sadly does not reach all areas to remain dependent on the well and pump scenario.

So, what are the challenges facing the city in its quest to become a ‘Smart Water City’?

-First is the dependence on two main sources of water: the rivers flowing down from Banten are West Java which have become amongst the most polluted in the world, and the huge Jatiluhur reservoir which itself is endangered by reduced inflow from feeding rivers.

- Secondly the lack of coverage by the city water companies who have not kept pace with demand and who desperately need major investment.

- Thirdly the inefficiencies in the water systems actually in buildings which result in massive leakage and wastage. We real need a whole new approach.

Energy: but it’s not just water that needs urgent attention, electricity is also under pressure. In August 2019, a citywide blackout threw the city into disarray, disrupting traffic, communications and businesses. Traffic lights all over the city ceased to operate, causing severe traffic congestion with police unable to manage the flow on traffic. The city’s Mass Rapid Tranport (MRT) system was brought to a halt, forcing passengers to disembark and walk to the nearest station. With power out in homes across the city, many people sought refuge in shopping malls that had emergency generators, the malls soon become severely overcrowded and presented a security risk in itself. Petrol stations were forced to close and netizens accustomed to cashless payment were forced to search out ATM’s to with draw cash, only to find that none were in operation.

While Smart City initiatives tend to focus on sustainable developments and harnessing digital technologies for integrated citizen-service delivery, it demands that coordination across agencies has a strong focus on the much needed integrated and dynamic operation center in order to manage daily operation and to address emergency scenarios, in addition to taking cybersecurity into consideration.

So far, we have only touched in traffic, water and a quick look at power, but already we can see the challenges that have to be faced. In the next article we will talk about waste, building and pollution, and see what the challenges and solutions are in those areas.

The conclusion so far? Yes, Jakarta can become Smart City…..but it will be a long journey which we have to start now.

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