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The Vietnamese government has made smart cities a top priority in its smart city strategy and urban green growth development plan with support from the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI). Over 30 cities are taking their first steps towards becoming smart cities, led by Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Danang.
A smart city is defined as a city that operates in an ambitious and innovative manner covering all or many aspects of the economy, society, governance, mobility, environment, and living. The most successful initiatives to date have brought the public and private sectors together, utilising the strengths of both sides for success. In a watershed move, the leaders of Danang signed a memorandum of understanding with FPT Corporation to develop smart solutions in transport, agriculture, English language training, healthcare, and tourism, which is a great example for other cities in Vietnam to follow.
A positive step
Danang was one of the early birds in Vietnam, beginning smart city development with the aim of building a modern and civilised city. Since 2012, the city has been collaborating with the US’ International Business Machines Group (IBM) to survey and develop the project of “Building a smarter city.”
This was followed by a series of co-operation programmes with businesses to develop smart city features. Facing the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Danang has many new opportunities to build a creative city based on information technology and high technology.
The construction of a smart city has been on the agenda since 2012 when the city began collaborating with IBM on the “Building a smarter city” project. Since then, Danang has successfully deployed a variety of smart applications, such as the bus management system with cruise monitoring equipment and the centre for managing and operating traffic signals and public transport.
In the field of environment, Danang has implemented a monitoring and early warning system for the water environment. In education, the city has built a shared database to integrate the management software used in schools across the city.
In the field of healthcare, Danang has completed and put into use three software including medical software for ward/commune-level medical practices (installed at 100 per cent of the units), hospital management software at the district health centre, and electronic medical record software and patient’s ID management. In order to manage food safety and hygiene, Danang has deployed a database where people can easily look up products and check whether they meet food safety standards through text messages, telephones.
In recent years, the city has been actively working with domestic and foreign organisations by investing into infrastructure and sharing their experiences on urban development models like smart city, green-fresh city, eco-city, and low-carbon city.
Orientations for a smart city
The city’s socio-economic development plan to 2030 with a vision to 2045 has set the goal of transforming Danang into a smart city which is also a world-class coastal city and a national brand, a centre for startups, innovation, and creativity for Vietnam and the region – as well as a city worth living and working in.
Le Trung Chinh, Deputy Chairman of Danang People’s Committee, said that the goal is to turn Danang into a smart urban area that works in sync with smart urban networks in the country and the ASEAN region by 2030. By 2045, Danang will have become a large, ecological, and smart city, a centre for startups, innovation, and a seaside city worth living in.
“To do this, Danang has to transform its economy, society, and administration, with the core factors being governance and smart city models, socio-economic management, as well as connecting people and communities with business sectors towards fast growth, innovation, and progress,” Chinh said.
Chinh recalled when in 2014 IBM gave Danang the Smart City Award with a grant of $400,000 for its e-government system. The company also provided consultancy on the first draft of Danang’s smart city architecture framework.
“From here, Danang started implementing smart applications in the areas of transport, drainage, and food safety. Currently, the city is working on automating urban management and public services provision via science and technology, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), and Big Data,” Chinh said.
Deputy Minister of Construction Phan Thi My Linh said that Danang is the leading city in implementing smart city construction projects. With the specificity of the new model and the many different development perspectives, Linh said that the smart city has to be people-centred and provide the most convenience to residents. She lauded Danang’s results in urban development, but highlighted shortcomings in planning and management.
“Smart city development needs to focus on building a large database, a reasonable allocation of investment among sectors, clearly delineated areas and competences, and needs to diversify resources from the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, businesses, and investors,” said Linh.
A $93 million smart city
Vietnam has little experience in smart city development, which makes Danang’s pioneering steps even more important as they break the path for other localities.
Nguyen Thanh Phuc, director of the Department of Computerisation under the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), said that there is a close relationship between e-government and smart city as both are people-centred. The e-government focuses on providing online public services, while smart city focuses on providing utility products and services for urban residents. “If there is a strong e-government system, the city will be all that closer to becoming a smart city,” Phuc said.
According to Phuc, smart city is basically a collection of popular smart applications to serve people. He cited the current traffic issues of greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and traffic jams, pointing out how smart solutions could remedy or at least alleviate all of these issues, while improving management in travel schedules, optimising the choice of transport forms, and enabling multi-modal applications, and improving traffic safety. “To solve these problems, smart applications such as GPS-based systems for real time tracking of traffic and vehicles, smart parking systems, and an intelligent traffic sign system could be implemented,” Phuc said.
Le Hong Ha, vice chairman of the Vietnam Informatics Association, said that a smart city connects citizens and infrastructure by digital means. Smart cities run on smart technologies like AI, Big Data, IoT, and robotics and devices which are the foundation of smart devices. Information technology is a core component of smart cities, in other words, smart cities cannot exist without a strong information technology platform.
Ha said that Danang has always scored high in the MIC’s ICT index, which implies that the city is competitive, and enjoys strong administrative reforms, developing e-commerce, and high per capita income. Additionally, when per capita income is high, individual investment into IT increases, further pushing up the ICT index.
“Danang has been leading the ICT index for the past 10 years, which means it has built a strong IT foundation, giving it a good start in smart city development,” said Ha.
Nguyen Quang Thanh, director of the Danang Department of Information and Communications, said that Danang’s smart city project focuses on six pillars and 16 priority areas, the roadmap is divided into three phases with specific goals by 2030. “In order to achieve the goal, we have identified 53 key programmes and projects implemented by 12 state management agencies with the total investment capital of VND2.14 trillion ($93 million), of which the city budget will account for 30 per cent,” Thanh said.