Global Perspectives


Indonesia’s approach to urbanisation has become a global talking point. However, will the investment in Smart Cities prove to be an innovative solution or resource-draining economic burden? This week we weigh in on this exciting development in the infrastructure industry.

What are Smart Cities?

The definition of a Smart City is difficult to pin down. On the one hand, there is the top-down, operational efficiency centred approach. On the other, a bottom-up approach focuses heavily on citizen engagement. The bottom line, however, is the merging of data with infrastructure. Merging data and infrastructure allows cities to reduce vehicle congestion and pollution by optimising transportation infrastructure while also preserving energy through real-time usage insights.

How does this relate to Indonesia? Indonesian cities are facing an impending population boom. Rural populations are flocking towards urban centres seeking job security and higher living standards. In the meantime, the government is scrambling to meet demand through infrastructure investment. In 2014 Indonesia established its ‘six pillars’ of Smart Cities: governance, people, economy, mobility, living standards, and environment. Their goal is to use technology to blend these pillars together seamlessly.

Bandung Smart City

In 2017 the Indonesian government announced that it would be quadrupling its budget for the building of Smart Cities. The increase of IDR 75 billion demonstrated the high hopes of decision-makers. Digital transformation of infrastructure was anticipated to revolutionise life for the ever-increasing urban population and reinvigorate the economy.

Smart Government

Improve the performance of the government so that it is more effective, efficient, accountable and transparent in an effort to increase the capacity of services.

Smart Education

Develop human resources: health, professional etc.

Smart Transportation

Providing a secure transportation system, efficient, comfortable, affordable and environmentally friendly travel.

Smart Health

Keeping Bandung healthy through the integration of new technologies and hospitals.

Smart Energy

Realising Bandung as a city that is energy efficient and independent.

Smart Surveillance

Raising awareness of security and the handling of citizens.

Smart Environment

Making Bandung an environmentally integrated
metropolitan city.

Smart Social

Increasing the public’s sensitivity towards their social environment.

Smart Payment and Indentity

Integrating the financial system within the city in a way which is transparent, accountable and effective.

Smart Commerce

Developing the city’s economy, supporting the creation of jobs and enhancing the role of the private sector in the economic development of Bandung.

Information from B. Sutrisno’s academic paper on Bandung Smart City.

These goals, if achieved, seem to represent the positive impact of the mammoth project. The programme will be defined by extraordinary levels of complexity. If the ministries which have partnered with each other, as well as with the private sector, can manage a programme of this scale there will be lessons to be learned by the entire industry. In addition to this, the integration of IoT and artificial intelligence technology into the city sets an exciting precedent for the future of such large scale-infrastructure.

Unfortunately, research from Oxford University shows that megaprojects of this magnitude “systemically fail” almost every time. Jakarta’s decision-makers must act early and swiftly if they want to reap the benefits of Smart Cities. Vitally, cutting-edge technology cannot wait until the project is completed. It must be utilised throughout all phases of the project.

The clock is ticking…

The construction of Smart Cities presents a multitude of potential problems. Project teams will need to anticipate surprises along the way. Challenges range from integrating population cross-sections, controlling labour transitions, and securing the digital environment. However, by far the biggest problem facing Indonesia in achieving its goal of Smart Cities by 2045 is time. The aim of completing the transition to Smart Cities within the next 25 year is ambitious, if not potentially disastrous.

The 2045 deadline is not as concrete as, say, the Olympics (the only megaprojects to come in on time – almost always at the expense of huge cost overruns). However, dual pressures of rapid urban population growth and internal economic constraints mean that meeting this deadline is vital if the project is to be considered a success.

At Foresight Works, we are passionate about the potential of artificial intelligence and machine learning to transform the way we do projects. The case of Indonesia’s Smart Cities presents an exciting opportunity in the future of the large infrastructure industry. We hope that in coming years, project teams integrate cutting-edge technology into their programmes from the start, bringing projects like this in on time and on budget, every time.

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Madeleine Jones Casey

Madeleine Jones-Casey

Business Writer at Foresight Works

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