Urban planning

Why Hong Kong must not forget culture in tech-led smart city race

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 4:04pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 10 May, 2018, 10:28pm

There is much hype about smart cities and the race to be the smartest (“Lack of innovation and incentives holding back Hong Kong from becoming a smart city”, May 1). It is almost as if there isn’t enough technology to go around. This, of course, is nonsense. But city governments need to think very carefully before rushing headlong into expensive technology-led fads.

Songdo in South Korea is one of the first examples of a smart city. It has been described as “overpriced and underpopulated … with a Chernobyl-like emptiness” and branded by its residents as “a ghost town” (“South Korea’s ‘smart city’ Songdo: not quite smart enough?”, March 25).

Smart, ubiquitous, sustainable. Are these just the latest buzzwords in urban management, or do they have real meaning? Two things are certain: there is no consensus among either the urban management community or within academia; and they are likely to have little or no meaning to most city dwellers. 

Culturally sensitive urban strategies … are core to a sustainable city

Concerning the former, and contrary to the opinions expressed in your May 1 article, it is interesting that, in April this year, the World Bank counted Hong Kong among the leaders of “data-driven cities”. 

It has long been acknowledged by urban planners that culture and context are the cornerstones of sustainability. Culturally sensitive urban strategies, creativity, heritage, knowledge and diversity are core to a sustainable city. Unless regional and local culture are explicitly taken into account, sustainable development will not occur.

Cultural vitality is an absolute essential for city life. It requires political commitment to long-term policies and to equipping all tiers of government with the necessary capacity and capability to carry out and manage their roles and responsibilities.

Cultural matters are integral to the lives of everyone. Urban development that recognises this, as well as integrating the use of technology to support city life, will go a long way to being considered as smart, ubiquitous and sustainable.

Trevor Seymour-Jones, chartered surveyor, Sydney, Australia; and Mary Seddon, town planner, Hong Kong