Imagine driving in Jakarta without getting trapped in traffic, being able to drift around freely, knowing where to park and hopping on the next train without losing time, energy and patience.
This utopian vision could become a reality as the Jakarta administration moves quickly to build a smart city by 2018, when the city will host the regional sporting event, the Asian Games.
Jakarta, which celebrated its 488th anniversary on June 22, lags behind other big cities in the region in utilizing information and communication technology advancements to address urban challenges.
Jakarta is in the first phase of building the “Jakarta Smart City” mobile website slated for release this month — a task handled by the newly set up Jakarta Smart City unit. It will integrate the administration’s existing crowd-source website Qlue, traffic info and chat platform Waze and the CROP app, used by officials to respond to public complaints.
The unit’s head, Setiaji, said his team also plans to include multi-purpose courier and motorcycle taxi service Go-Jek, the 2015 winner of the Jakarta Urban Challenge competition, as well as the Kampung Road app for pedestrians and cyclists and mobile safety and auditing service Safetipin in the all-in-one app.
“The app will be able to direct people to hospitals with available rooms to cut traveling time as part of our smart health and smart living program,” he said.
Thousands of CCTV devices with 4G Internet connections would be installed to connect with the command center, which also serves to analyze data and launch quick responses. “Technology is just a tool, the important element is public engagement in realizing smart governance,” said Setiaji, who also heads the city administration’s Communication and Information Office.
In layman’s terms, the new “smart city” buzzword is the utilization of Internet-based tools to improve every aspect of living — a heavily digitized city with well-established infrastructure.
While the definition may still evolve, many urban experts agree on six main characteristics of a smart city — smart government, smart living, smart people, smart environment, smart mobility and smart economy — as have been implemented in some European cities.
Problems arise when innovation and regulation advance in incongruent ways, if not sometimes in totally opposite directions.
“Innovation and regulation are not close siblings. At one point, innovation is meant to break regulations,” said digital marketing expert Anthony Liem.
He was one of the speakers at PAS FM’s radio talk show on Wednesday focusing on the controversy surrounding the legality of mobile apps that offer end-to-end solutions, such as the San Francisco-based ride-hailing app Uber, Malaysia’s GrabTaxi and the affiliated GrabOjek as well as the homegrown service Go-Jek.
At the talk show, Jakarta Transportation Agency head Benjamin Bukit and head of the Organization of Land City Transportation Owners (Organda) Shafruhan Sinungan said that Uber was not abiding by regulations on tariffs, among other violations, however there were no current regulations that forbade it from operating.
Uber’s representative for the region, Joshua Ho, said Uber was in the process of meeting the legal requirements to run a business in Jakarta while emphasizing that
as a technology application company it doesn’t actually own the cars nor employ any of the drivers.
Liem suggested the government update itself on global changes that affect the public, as regulations would always be a step behind innovation. However, he said that new businesses should not ignore regulations.
“Issues of national pride and sovereignty are also at play here. Judging from how the government has collaborated with Go-Jek, although there are no laws that allow motorcycles to be used as public transportation, it seems there is less friction if the innovation is made by Indonesians,” said Liem.
Such a mentality, however, is counterproductive to the smart city plan, according to Yansen Kamto of Kibar Kreasi Indonesia,a start-up incubator and consultant for the digital creative industry.
He said the smart city concept required an understanding of the city based on the social relevance of urban life so that the administration could optimize underutilized resources.
“Willing or not, only by disrupting the status-quo can a high performance and livable entrepreneurial city be achieved,” Yansen said.
“Forget the old-fashioned centralized approach and accept autonomous, open source and peer-to-peer solutions […] Real people find the tech solutions useful, but the old powers don’t think so.”
Setiaji said his team would soon meet new businesses to learn whether they were of benefit to the smart city project. “We are open for feedback on the final model of Jakarta Smart City.”
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