Is Malaysia Ready To Rollout The Smart City Concept?


By Azuan Muda

The Covid-19 pandemic in many ways had revealed vulnerabilities of local authorities, governments and other stakeholders to advance the underlying concept of smart cities. 

It also prompted cities and federal ministries to seek out new technologies to help them deal with the pandemic through the introduction of the MySejahtera app. But there is a lot more to it than meets the eye.

The federal government introduced the Malaysia Smart City Framework in 2019 as the catalyst to smart city implementation specifically for local authorities. Developed by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government, the framework aims to achieve a competitive economy, sustainable environment and enhanced quality of life by using ICT and innovative technology to address urban issues.

MSCF also highlights seven major components of a smart city in Malaysia – Smart Economy, Smart Living, Smart Environment, Smart People, Smart Government, Smart Mobility and Smart Digital Infrastructure. 

Based on the MSCF, Malaysia adapts largely an institutional model approach over commercial and civic models. An institutional model is a top-down approach with a high level of the federal government and local authorities’ participation including key alliances such as Malaysia Smart Cities Alliances and Malaysia International Centre for Sustainable Cities. 

The model should align to well-defined national agendas – Twelfth Malaysia Plan – for instance, the digital transformation blueprint to accelerate the roll-out of smart cities.  

That said, implementing smart cities through this approach present a considerable challenge especially in coordinating multiple ministries, agencies and local authorities. Although it seems that KPKT might be the responsible ministry to oversee smart cities, KPKT does not have absolute authority to integrate the execution and implementation plans.  

As such, local authorities tend to focus on areas such as transport issues with the introduction of various parking apps for the public to use. 

Recently, the Chief Minister of Sarawak launched Smart City Operating System under the Kuching Smart City Masterplan, connecting Autonomous Rapid Transit in Kuching. Selangor established the Smart Selangor Delivery Unit in 2016, implementing initiatives like cashless transactions for parking through the Smart Selangor Parking app and Selangor Intelligent Transport System app to track Smart Selangor buses. In the southern part, Iskandar Malaysia is already running a pilot test of the Iskandar Malaysia Bus Rapid Transit, transforming public transportation in Johor Bahru.

The very foundation of a smart city involves innovative and integrated technology. Given our state of digital infrastructure, the implementation could be limiting since our digital infrastructure is not widely available to support smart cities. The infrastructure needs to be ready now and be utilized instantly or else smart city is just another buzzword.

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