The concept of Smart Cities has been developing for more than two decades, “aiming at optimising resources [and] seeking sustainability, while at the same time seeking an improvement in the quality of life of citizens,” according to a master thesis titled Smart Cities: o caso de Macau [Smart Cities: the case of Macau], presented in a Portuguese university two years ago.
“According to this concept,” believes Si Chio Ieong, “any city that intends to be intelligent must begin to intervene in six critical areas: citizenship, environment, governance, economy, mobility and quality of life, and there must be a dynamic interaction between technological, human factors and institutional.”
Si, the author, states that “a city is only smart when it is properly invested in human capital, social and ICT infrastructure, achieving an improvement in the quality of life through participatory governance.”
To achieve this goal, the Government of Macau and Alibaba Group announced in August, 2017 that they had entered “into a strategic partnership framework agreement, under which Alibaba will support Macau’s transformation into a Smart City by using cloud computing technologies in order to bring benefits to both residents and tourists visiting the city.”
The world’s largest online and mobile marketplace promised that “by leveraging the advanced technologies provided by Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, the parties will collaborate in upgrading the IT infrastructure of Macau to foster developments in tourism, transportation, healthcare, governance and talent development.”
A year later, the first concrete step: the design of the Cloud Computing Centre and the Mega-Data Platform has been awarded to Alibaba Cloud for MOP273.4 million.
“Smart City development is Macau is slow. Only recently (two years) have Smart City plans been proposed by the government. Big Smart City service provider names – for example, Alibaba – have entered Macau, with Mainland China practices discussed. The Smart City process, however, is still in its initial stages,” Yide Liu, Associate Professor of the School of Business, Macau University of Science and Technology, told Macau Business.
This Macau-based scholar, an expert on the subject, understands that it is too early to speculate on benefits to the population: “Although there are proposals, they are quite general. It hard to describe the benefit people will get based upon these proposals. Smart City is a long term project with the integration of huge amounts of information. It is a challenge for Macau, a young government.”
“Smart City development is Macau is slow. Only recently (two years), have Smart City plans been proposed by the government. Big Smart City service provider names – for example, Alibaba – have entered Macau, with Mainland China practices discussed. The Smart City process, however, is still in its initial stages” – Yide Liu
Another difficulty, although there are projects of this type everywhere, is to find the best examples that can serve as inspiration. Professor Yide Liu agrees: “It is hard to find the ‘best’ example. A recent story in Canada: Toronto will develop smart areas with Google by using fantastic techniques. Clearly, Macau will not work with Google on this in the near future.” There are many successful stories on the sharing economy in China. “However, a lot of negative stories have [surfaced] recently. Based upon the current situation in Macau, the application to smart tourism and SMEs will be welcome.”
Along the same lines, the recommendations of the Internet Usage Trends in Macau, 2018 (prepared by the Macau Association for Internet Research) propose: “With the popularisation of the Internet – especially the mobile Internet, as well as the comprehensive use of smart phones – the applications related to the Smart City such as online payment, smart government and smart traffic possibly reach into every aspect of Macau including society, the economy and daily life. Therefore, it has great significance for further developing a Smart City in Macau.”
“With the strong mobile trend in Macau Internet usage, the mobile has become the most common tool for Internet surfing. Nowadays, the rate of mobile Internet usage almost equals that of Internet usage,” we can read in Internet Usage Trends in Macau, 2018. “It is confirmed that netizens are gradually embracing all kinds of Internet services, of which the use of E-government affairs has seen steady growth.”
The Macau Association for Internet Research document also states: “It’s necessary for the government to connect its affairs to the mobile trend. With the extensive application of big data technology, the enterprises and public can enjoy government services more conveniently, while the administrative cost of the government will be reduced, and the level of engagement and satisfaction of the public will be raised.”
The government’s efforts should also go in another direction – notably, public online opinion matters. The report of the team led by Professor Angus Cheong is very clear when he says that “the Internet has become the most frequently used platform for opinion expression, with netizens expressing their views in forums, Facebook Groups/Pages, online petitions and replying on websites as well as commenting upon news. As a result, the government needs to pay attention to public opinion on the Internet. On the other hand, it is necessary for the government to develop scientific methods and strategies to mine public online opinion.”