Bình Dương takes less beaten path to smart city

Diverging from the common view that a smart city only means leveraging technology to resolve social issues, the southern province of Bình Dương has opted for a different path: building a smart city with focus on people, knowledge and smart co-operation, Dr. Nguyễn Việt Long, director of the Bình Dương Smart City Office, said.

A view of Bình Dương New City. - VNA/VNS Photo An Hiếu

Two decades ago the province had relied mainly on agriculture, which had accounted for more than 90 per cent of its economy.

Now it has become one of the country’s key industrial hubs with industry and services accounting for 63 per cent and 23.5 per cent of its economy, thanks to its strong investment in infrastructure and modern industrial parks to attract foreign investors.

The province is evolving and new urban areas are being developed to serve the growing numbers of new businesses and residents.

Yet it faces many challenges such as low value addition in manufacturing and inadequately trained workers.

Traditional labour-intensive industries have affected the environment and hastened an increase in its migrant population, leading to many social issues.

This leaves the province at a tipping point where it has to respond to both people’s and businesses’ new demands and prepare for more technology-based and sustainable development.

After considering smart city models found around the world, in 2015 Bình Dương partnered with the Dutch city of Eindhoven to work towards sustainable socio-economic development based on the Triple Helix model of collaboration, which involves a partnership between research institutions, businesses and the government.

Learning from Eindhoven’s experience and considering the local context, Bình Dương has adopted a different approach to a smart city, ignoring the common view that smart cities only mean leveraging technology.

“In Bình Dương’s view, a smart city is a dynamic, innovative and connected eco-system in which all of its components are constantly improved and optimised,” Dr. Long said.

Bình Dương uses the Triple Helix model to strengthen co-operation between local administrations, businesses and institutions, and connect with other regions, and in this relationship, the governments have the leading role, while businesses and research institutions play supporting roles based on their expertise, he said.

“This model allows many parties to join hands and create a shared and long-term vision, appropriate strategies and action plans to lead Bình Dương towards prosperity and innovation.”

One of the examples of this kind of co-operation was the establishment of a lighting laboratory jointly by Becamex IDC, Eastern International University and Dutch-based Philips Lighting.

The lab is not only a place for students to learn about lighting technologies and businesses to research into lighting technologies, but also a place for advanced training for engineers from other universities and organisations.

Other similar collaborations include between Germany’s Bosch and the Vietnamese-German University to develop e-bikes and between the Việt Nam Posts and Telecommunications Group and Thủ Dầu Một University for researching and building an ICT lab.

According to Dr. Long, all participants in the Bình Dương smart city project contribute to the joint agenda by sharing their interests, knowledge, ideas, and vision on future development. “In return, they can join specific projects which help their own organisations gain a competitive edge within and outside the region.”

All of the province’s detailed plans to build a smart city is presented in a strategic programme called Bình Dương Navigator 2021.

The people-centric programme lists the tasks to be performed in various areas: strengthening workers’ skills and education; expanding R&D activities and building startup eco-systems; attracting more FDI in high-tech manufacturing; improving the transport and ICT infrastructure, business climate and people’s living conditions; and enhancing the province’s international co-operation, etc.

The province aims to become a modern tier 1 city before 2020 and join the Intelligent Community Forum (ICF) before 2021, which will allow it to connect to a network of 160 smart provinces and cities around the world.

Besides building a smart city, the province is also developing a smart region based on ICF standards.

Bình Dương New City will be the centre of the smart region where the most important urban areas, research and educational institutions, and industrial zones will be situated.

Since building a smart city is a long-term project, Bình Dương has always shown its willingness to learn from international models and looks forward to forming partnerships with international research institutions and organisations to adopt the world’s best practices in building smart cities.

The province has organised an annual international smart city summit since 2016 to discuss how to tackle urban challenges, forge new partnerships and explore new ideas and share insights and expertise while developing smart cities.

This year’s event will be held on November 27.

Source VNA