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Suva - smart city of the future

Dr Punit Sethi
Sunday, December 03, 2017

The city of destiny, Suva, is envisioned to become a leader in sustainability, healthy living, equality and innovation.

Smart cities

A smart city is a highly connected place where intelligent decision-making enhances infrastructural efficiencies, economic growth, swift governance, sustainability and greater safety and security to enhance the quality of life of citizens.

A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information used to manage assets and resources efficiently. This includes data collected from citizens, devices, and assets that is processed and analysed to monitor and manage traffic and transportation systems, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, information systems, schools, libraries, hospitals, and other community services. The smart city concept integrates information and communication technology (ICT), and various physical devices connected to the network (the internet of things or IoT) to optimise the efficiency of city operations and services and connect to citizens. Smart city technology allows city officials to interact directly with both community and city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city and how the city is evolving.

Information and communication technology (ICT) is used to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to increase contact between citizens and government. Major technological, economic and environmental changes have generated interest in smart cities, including climate change, economic restructuring, the move to online retail and entertainment, ageing populations, urban population growth and pressures on public finances.

So, what is a smart city? The first question is what is meant by a smart city. The answer is, there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. It means different things to different people. The conceptualisation of smart city, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents.

A smart city would have a different connotation in Fiji than, say, Europe. Some definitional boundaries are required to guide cities in the mission of smart city. In the imagination of any city dweller, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system, which is represented by the four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. This can be a long-term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of "smartness". In the approach of the smart city, the objective is to promote city that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of "smart" solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development and the idea is to look at compact areas, create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities/towns/rural areas. It is meant to set examples that can be replicated both within and outside the smart city, catalysing the creation of similar smart cities/towns/villages in various regions and parts of the country. The core infrastructure elements in a smart city would include:

i. Adequate water supply;

ii. Assured electricity supply;

iii. Sanitation, including solid waste management;

iv. Efficient urban mobility and public transport;

v. Affordable housing, especially for the poor;

vi. Robust IT connectivity and digitalisation;

vii. Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation;

viii. Sustainable environment;

ix. Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly; and

x. Health and education.

As far as smart solutions are concerned, an illustrative list is given below. This is not, however, an exhaustive list, and cities are free to add more applications.

E-governance and citizen services

?Public information, grievances redressal

? Electronic service delivery

? Citizen engagement

? Citizens X — city's eyes and ears

? Video crime monitoring

Waste management

? Waste to energy and fuel

? Waste to compost

? Waste water to be treated

? Recycling and reduction of C&D waste (construction and demolition waste)

Water management

?Smart metres and management

?Leakage identification, preventive maintenance

?Water quality monitoring

Energy management:

? Smart metres and management

? Renewable source of energy

? Energy efficient and green buildings

Urban mobility:

? Smart parking

? Intelligent traffic management

? Integrated multi-model transport


? Tele-medicine and tele-education

? Incubation/trade facilitation centres

Accordingly, the purpose of the smart city is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local area development and harnessing technology, especially technology that leads to smart outcomes. Area based development will transform existing areas (retrofit and redevelop), including slums, into better planned ones, thereby improving liveability of the whole city. New areas (greenfield) will be developed around cities in order to accommodate the expanding population in urban areas. Application of smart solutions will enable cities to use technology, information and data to improve infrastructure and services.

Comprehensive development in this way will improve quality of life, create employment and enhance incomes for all, especially the poor and the disadvantaged, leading to inclusive cities with e-governance, command and control centre and appropriate disaster management system.

Smart city framework leverages ICT in improving citizen services with integrated growth with dedicated corridors for transportation (for example in Suva smart city — Suva to Nausori tram line corridor for passengers/tourists and parallel to the tram line; bus rapid transport system and dedicated utilities/services corridor (and then none to do any haphazard construction/development).

A smart city roadmap consists of four/three (the first is a preliminary check) major components:

1. Define exactly what is the community: maybe that definition can condition what you are doing in the subsequent steps; it relates to geography, links between cities and countryside and flows of people between them; maybe — even — that in some countries the definition of city/community that is stated does not correspond effectively to what, in fact, happens in the real life.

2. Study the community: Before deciding to build a smart city, first we need to know why. This can be done by determining the benefits of such an initiative. Study the community to know the citizens, the business's needs ­­­­— know the citizens and the community's unique attributes, such as the age of the citizens, their education, hobbies, and attractions of the city.

3. Develop a smart city policy: Develop a policy to drive the initiatives, where roles, responsibilities, objective, and goals, can be defined. Create plans and strategies on how the goals will be achieved.

4. Engage the citizens: This can be done by engaging the citizens through the use of e-government initiatives, open data, sport events, etc.

In short, people, processes, and technology (PPT) are the three principles of the success of a smart city initiative. Cities must study their citizens and communities, know the processes, business drivers, create policies, and objectives to meet the citizens' needs. Then, technology can be implemented to meet the citizens' need, in order to improve the quality of life and create real economic opportunities.

This requires a holistic customised approach that accounts for city cultures, long-term city planning, and local regulations.

"Whether to improve security, resiliency, sustainability, traffic congestion, public safety, or city services, each community may have different reasons for wanting to be smart. But all smart communities share common attributes-and they all are powered by smart connections and by our industry's smarter energy infrastructure. A smart grid is the foundational piece in building a smart community."

Smart city features

Some typical features of comprehensive development in smart cities are described below.

1. Promoting mixed land use in area based developments-planning for "unplanned areas" containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient.

2. Housing and inclusiveness — expand housing opportunities for all;

3. Creating walkable localities -reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The road network is created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking or cycling distance;

4. Preserving and developing open spaces - parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, reduce the urban heat effects in Areas and generally promote eco-balance;

5. Promoting a variety of transport options - transit oriented development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;

6. Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective — increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices. Forming e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programs and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites;

7. Giving an identity to the city - based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, arts and craft, culture, sports goods, sugar cane farming, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;

8. Applying smart solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development in order to make them better. For example, making Areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services.


The strategic components of area-based development in the smart city are city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment) and city extension (Greenfield development) plus a PAN-city initiative in which Smart Solutions are applied covering larger parts of the city. Below are given the three models of Area-based smart city development:

? Retrofitting will introduce planning in an existing built-up area to achieve smart city objectives, along with other objectives, to make the existing area more efficient and liveable. In retrofitting, an area consisting of more than 500 acres will be identified by the city in consultation with citizens. Depending on the existing level of infrastructure services in the identified area and the vision of the residents, the cities will prepare a strategy to become smart. Since existing structures are largely to remain intact in this model, it is expected that more intensive infrastructure service levels and a large number of smart applications will be packed into the retrofitted smart city. This strategy may also be completed in a shorter time frame, leading to its replication in another part of the city.

? Redevelopment will effect a replacement of the existing built-up environment and enable co-creation of a new layout with enhanced infrastructure using mixed land use and increased density. Redevelopment envisages an area of more than 50 acres. For instance, a new layout plan of the identified area will be prepared with mixed land-use, higher FSI and high ground coverage

? Greenfield development will introduce most of the smart solutions in a previously vacant area (more than 250 acres) using innovative planning, plan financing and plan implementation tools (e.g. land pooling/ land reconstitution) with provision for affordable housing, especially for the poor. Greenfield developments are required around cities in order to address the needs of the expanding population.

? PAN-city development envisages application of selected Smart Solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure. Application of smart solutions will involve the use of technology, information and data to make infrastructure and services better.

For example, applying smart solutions in the transport sector (intelligent traffic management system) and reducing average commute time or cost of citizens will have positive effects on productivity and quality of life of citizens. Another example can be waste water recycling and smart metering which can make a huge contribution to better water management in the city.

The smart city is expected to encapsulate either a retrofitting or redevelopment or Greenfield development model, or a mix thereof and a pan-city feature with smart solution(s). It is important to note that pan-city is an additional feature to be provided.

Since smart city is taking a compact area approach, it is necessary that all the city residents feel there is something in it for them also. Therefore, the additional requirement of some (at least one) city-wide smart solution has been put in the scheme to make it inclusive.

Understanding the concepts of retrofitting, redevelopment and Greenfield development by the policy makers, implementers and other stakeholders at different levels will require capacity assistance.

Major investments in time and resources will have to be made during the planning phase prior to participation in the challenge. This is different from the conventional DPR-driven approach.

The smart city conversion requires smart people who actively participate in governance and reforms. Citizen involvement is much more than a ceremonial participation in governance. Smart people involve themselves in the definition of the smart city, decisions on deploying smart solutions, implementing reforms, doing more with less and oversight during implementing and designing post-project structures in order to make the smart city developments sustainable. The participation of smart people will be enabled by the SPV through increasing use of ICT, especially mobile-based tools.

In view of country's and Government of Fiji's global vision of progress and development (and the same is happening), this article may be please considered as a humble contribution from a professional for the purpose of knowledge sharing/personal views, please.

? Dr Punit Sethi is the CEO of the Housing Authority of Fiji and a member of many global professional bodies including American Society of Civil Engineers and Quality Management. Dr Sethi has expertise in smart city developments, urban planning/townships, infrastructure development and affordable housing/strata construction and facility management. Views expressed are his and not of this newspaper.

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