Singapore: Would cities risk leaving millions people behind with the unparalleled development of “smart cities” ?

Emerging Knowledge
4 min readDec 24, 2019
Urban Innovation Forum 2019 was hosted in Singapore with partnership of Choson Exchange, World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization(WeGO) and Asian Institute of City Management(AiCM)

With the support of World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization(WeGO), Choson Exchange, Good City Foundation(Future City Summit) and Asian Institute of City Management, Urban Innovation Forum was hosted in November 2019 in Singapore, the first inaugural forum for regional thought discussion on the latest urban design issues, solutions and trends in future.

The Forum was set with the joint efforts also with top-notch urban planning related organisations such as Global Resilient Cities Network(formerly 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by Rocketfeller Foundation), UN Habitat Vietnam, ICLEI East Asia Secretariat and companies such as BoP Hub, Miniwiz Singapore and Zaz Ventures.

The Forum as a whole brought three pillars of principles for regional conversation and joint-actions:

Sustainability: How to solve socio-economic issues through smart and innovative urban solutions?​

Collaboration: How can cities work together to form an alliance to tackle common urban issues?

Resilience: How to build resilience into cities in responding to environmental, social and political challenges?

The Forum was firstly shed light by Dr. Parag Khanna, Founder of Future Map on the high connectivity regionally and intercontinentally that has never been experienced in humankind history ever.

It was then followed with highlighting various campaigns, movements and solutions widely adopted recently in emerging countries in Southeast Asia such as Vietnam and Cambodia, with presentation sharings done by Andrew Lim Program Manager, WeGO and Dr. Nguyen Quang Habitat Programme Manager, UN-Habitat Vietnam.

The Forum was highly presented with Andrew Lim Program Manager, WeGO(left) and Dr. Nguyen Quang Habitat Programme Manager, UN-Habitat Vietnam(right).

Would cities risk leaving millions people behind with unparalleled development of “smart cities” ?

Panel Discussion on Urban Innovative Solutions

The Forum shed light on the discussion about the balanced relations between private, people and public sector, as stressed by Roberto Fabbri from BOP(Bottom of the Pyramid).

“Reposition of priority would be highly needed among all sectors, especially the government and corporates, to achieve a longer-lasting community and resilient urban development. The accountability of governance shall not be only considering the economic growth and numbers anymore, especially in the region such as Southeast Asia.”

With the rapid shift of capital and investment focus into development in the Global South, emerging countries and frontier market, there seems to be also phenomenon of invisible force pushing and urging urbanisation in the suburban and other cities in the developing market.

While the foreign investors and market players may gain high networth growth in numbers, the larger inequality among the local and the classes in society led to a hotter debate whether the agenda of “smart city” would in fact be leaving millions of the poor behind, and the answer seems to be a “yes” for now, viewed by Vladimir Bataev from Zaz Ventures.

A more strategic intervention with affordable urban technologies and innovations with proper government and policy regulations would be highly demanded in coming decades to moderate the speed of development, instead of simply twisting the market into a hot plate of capitalistic ambition.

Despite the understanding of different levels of local urban challenges or regionally as a whole, the fundamental urge of improvement soon would be the more efficient, effective and systematic ministerial and local government unit management and governance, along with their knowledge on technology and public policy, shared by Dr. Nguyen Quang Habitat Programme Manager, UN-Habitat Vietnam. The fragmented leadership in local cities, provinces and capital city as central government in emerging countries such as Vietnam has led to a slow progress in impactful effective urban development. While foreign capital has been influxing into the cities, local partners and stakeholders are not ready at all to take it!

Urban Design Charrette, where urban issues and solutions mutually shared

Ms. Peggy Tse, Chief Strategy Officer, Good City Foundation and Investment Specialist of World Bank IFC with Mr. Saurabh Gaidhani from Global Resilient Cities Network on Urban Design Charrette(left), with Problem Set presented by Ms. Titus Sunarisari Research and Development, Regional Development Planning, Semarang City Government(right)

Followed with the thought discussion, Urban Design Charrette was the afternoon focus, where guests and delegates were brought together to study 2 case studies provided and facilitated by Global Resilient Cities Network(formerly 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by Rocketfeller Foundation), Semarang and Can Tho.

With the fruitful full day of the Forum, it was concluded with an interactive sharing among the participants and learning of solutions. While the inaugural Forum has been smoothly built, the momentum shall continue to last for the upcoming planning of 2020, with higher connected urban solutions, governance leadership and technology understanding for good and the better.

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Learn more about…

  1. World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization(WeGO):
  2. Choson Exchange:
  3. Global Resilient Cities Network(100 Resilient Cities):



Emerging Knowledge

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