CALD Workshop on "Smart Cities" in Seoul
What does it take to thrive in the future? For the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD), smart city could be the most viable way to prosper in an era marked by rapid advances in technology and communication.
A smart city is a locality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public, and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare. It was for this reason that CALD chose to have its inaugural smart city seminar-workshop in a city that embodies these characteristics in every sense – Seoul, South Korea.
From 10 to 14 June 2019, around two-dozen delegates from 10 CALD member-parties participated in a seminar-workshop, which is sponsored by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for freedom, that aimed to introduce the concept of “smart city”, its characteristics, and how it is perceived from a liberal perspective. The event also presented cases of successful smart cities, as well as the preliminary steps needed for local governments to make the transition to smart cities.
“It is at the level of cities that people feel most close to home”, said CALD Chairperson and Taiwanese Member of Parliament Bi-Khim Hsiao. For this reason, she said that Liberals and Democrats should look at smart cities as a way to improve the quality of life of the citizens – from having a safe and clean environment to having stable and dignified jobs. She added: “As political parties seek to be democratic, the sharing and distribution of wealth, and closing the divide between urban and rural areas, are challenges that we should seek to address”.
In her opening keynote address, Liberal International (LI) President Hakima El Haite traced the evolution of the concept of smart city – from being a tool to generate business opportunities to being a mechanism to provide key services to citizens in an inclusive, sustainable and democratic way. She also noted that, “people need to be more smart so they can leverage smart technology” – a point that was also emphasized by Dr. Christian Taaks, Head of Friedrich Naumann Foundation Korea, in his opening remarks. He said: “To create smart cities, we also need ‘smart citizens’ – the citizens must be on board to make use of opportunities for participation and to achieve a better quality of life.”
After the opening session, four sessions followed on these topics: 1) Smart City: Salient Features and Characteristics; 2) Smart City from a Liberal Perspective; 3) Smart City Best Practices: Thailand, South Korea and Taiwan; and 4) Transforming into Smart City: Preliminary Steps. Site visits of Seoul Transport Operation and Information Service (TOPIS), Mapo Resource Recovery Facility, and Seoul Digital Foundation also took place after the formal sessions. The primary goal of the sessions and site visits was for the delegates, particularly those who are governing certain localities, to appreciate the potential of smart cities in addressing the needs of the citizens and in improving their quality of life.
“(In building a smart city), we need to prove ourselves to be smart enough to design a business model that requires the least funding from the public, but the most participation from the private sector”, said Former CALD Secretary General and LI Vice President Kiat Sittheeamorn in his closing keynote address. “We need to come up with better ideas to effect change with limited resources. It is possible, and has been proven already in the past, and it can be done again when it comes to smart cities.”