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  • Writer's pictureLouisa Ong

SIP Founder Penny Low moderates panel discussion at Digital Life Design (DLD) Conference 2019

Penny Low, Founder of Social Innovation Park, moderated an exciting panel discussion on the topic of “Making Our Cities Smarter” alongside Ritu Chandy (Chief Executive Officer, Asia Pacific, Financial Services at BMW), Mohit Grover (Vice President, Professional Services, Asia Pacific at Wirecard) and Fabien Nestmann (Head of Global Public Affairs & Special Projects at Volocopter).

Discussion The vibrant discussion opened with the panel sharing their idea of what a smart city is. While Fabien envisioned a smart city to be one with extreme mobility but unlocking the gridlock of movement by having more options, choices and right solutions for movement, Ritu interestingly disagrees and feels that a smart city would be one where people would not need to move/commute as much, and have the freedom of residing anywhere while still being able to engage in carry out their regular daily activities. Nonetheless, it is unanimous that a smart city should be one what improves the quality of lives in a sustainable way, and creates more time and space for human interaction.

The discussion then went on to the topic of stakeholders. Penny polled the audience on who should be responsible for setting the stage for a smart city (Government, Private Sector or Consumers) the results were split between Government and Private Sector, while the Consumers we not too far behind. While the panellists too could not agree on who should be the maestro, it was clear that it needed a collaborative effort by the Government (by setting the framework and infrastructure), Private Sector (to support and provide solutions) and of course, the Consumers, who would drive the needs.

Challenges & Concerns Biggest challenges of smart cities highlighted included public acceptance, infrastructure, affordability, literacy and education. Ritu shared her concern for a “faster and better world” where given all the technological disruption and enablers, we seem to still be time tight. She reminds us that when we do “create” more time, it should be for more meaningful human interactions and improved quality of life instead of creating higher dependency on digital devices. Penny echoes this by highlighting the impact of what we decide to focus our energy and time on. Mohit and Fabien concurs that adoption of technology for the betterment of life is a personal choice that individuals have to make. Technology on it own, though undoubtfully bring benefit, cannot determine the improvement of quality of life.

Conclusion The panel discussion ends with a sharing of their vision of the smart city for a future they are helping create. Ritu beautifully summed it up – “A city with a clean environment, sustainable, and one which creates opportunities for value adding, starting from human interaction.”

Penny impactfully closed with a reminder that we should aim for smart cities led by the human touch, supported by technology; and that we should not fall into the trap of reliance on technology at the expense of human connections and empathy.

Click here to watch a replay of the discussion on-demand.

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