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Dream of smart cities in Bangladesh
September 15th, 2020 at 1:06 pm
Dream of smart cities in Bangladesh

by M S Siddiqui in Dhaka,

The Population Division of the United Nations estimates that by 2025, the world will have 447 of these so-called mega-cities of ten or more million residents, among them such behemoths as Tokyo, Mumbai, Delhi, Dhaka, Sa˜o Paulo, Mexico City, and Calcutta, each with more than twenty million residents. The current projections suggest a rise to 70% urban by 2050, a percentage that will surely increase still further toward the end of this century. Expert suspects that some of these cities shall have to abandon due to lack of civic facilities in near future.

Ironically, it is estimated that 80 per cent of world GDP comes from urban areas. Bangladesh is not exception, currently, the contribution of Cities to GDP in Bangladesh is 60% and Dhaka city is contributing 30% alone. There is no choice to keep the cities active and productive for sake of economy of the nations. Some of those cities are struggling to survive but on the other hand some of the cities transformed to smart cities.

We are familiar with smart phone, smart building or smart television etc. developed in the recent years. During the latest years of 20thcentury, two important phenomena have been emerging: urbanization and information and communication technologies (ICT). Due to development of in both urbanization and ICT and economic growth contributed to increase well-being, mainly in the greater urban areas. These urban areas are now known as intelligent city, knowledge city, ubiquitous city, sustainable city, green city, digital city, etc. and very recent smart city. Some of the cities around the world have been branded a smart city.

Smart building

These cities are often linking together technological informational transformations with economic, political and socio-cultural change and integration and adaption. Smart City is a broad concept including many aspects of urban life, such as urban planning, sustainable development, environment, energy grid, economic development, technologies, social participation, and so on; therefore, also the word smart assumes a large range of meanings, linked with its different field of application.

The latest version of cities, the smart city is a more advanced form of digital city. Smart cities shall have road-maps to enhance green growth and quality of life, the usefulness of ICT infrastructures, the involvement of citizens in public life, the need to reduce digital divide, and so on. It will enriched with application of Internet of things, cloud computing, big data and spatial geographic information integration technology, sensing, analysis and integration of the core system of the city’s key information, So as to promote the transformation of government functions, to promote the innovation of social management, the infrastructure, public services, social management, ecological environment, industrial system more intelligent and optimized, so that people’s lives better, the city is more harmonious.

Smart cities include smart Governance and smart education, smart healthcare, smart building, smart mobility, smart infrastructure, smart technology, smart energy and smart citizen.


These dimensions are technological, human, institutional etc. Technology dimension is based on the use of infrastructures especially ICT to improve and transform life and work within a city in relevant way. This dimension includes the concepts about digital city; virtual city, information city, wired city, ubiquitous city and intelligent city. Human dimension is based on people, education, learning and knowledge because they are key drivers for the smart city. This dimension includes the concepts about Learning City and Knowledge City. Institutional dimension is based on governance and policy, because the cooperation between stakeholders and institutional governments is very important to design and implement smart city initiatives include the concepts about Smart Community, Sustainable City and Green City.

Despite development of many smart cities, the majority of cities around the world going in unplanned manner. UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) has revealed that the world faces some major issues such as the rise of informal, less coordinated urban planning; less land being allocated to streets; less access to arterial roads; and unaffordable housing. The world needs to focus on governance, technology and social innovations to build resilient, livable and sustainable cities of the future.  The Executive Director of the United Nations and observed, when people move from rural to urban areas, their total energy consumption goes up tenfold. Hence, renewable solutions are needed to adequately provide for a doubling of the global urban population. People strong inclination to concentrate in cities generated both positive and negative effects at global level despite the fact that with the present pace of urbanization.

Singapore just hosted the world city summit (WCS) on July 8-12, 2018 with theme “Livable & Sustainable Cities: Embracing the Future through Innovation and Collaboration”, It has tried to how cities can be more livable and resilient through better governance and planning, technology and social innovations, as well as collaborations with various stakeholders with other cities. Through shared vision and active engagement, the public, private and people sectors can co-create innovative and integrated urban solutions for a more sustainable future.

This seminar was featured on new technologies to build greater resilience, cities are also looking to renew and revamp the way in which they engage their people and involve them in correlating solutions for a better living environment, going as far as promoting participatory budgeting and monitoring of government by citizens.


It has observed that strategies will be needed to give people good jobs and see their lives improve. They must feel that the social and economic models employed include and benefit them.

The policy maker should pay more attention to global trends such as rapid ageing and growing inequality. As more societies are facing an increasingly larger proportion of older citizens, cities must adjust to accommodate greater demands on healthcare quality and costs, how to engage and include the elderly in meaningful city living, and how to ensure that an older workforce is integrated as an asset rather than as an optional add-on.

Social capital and social support will be vital to the wellbeing of the elderly and society in general. The city leaders may motivate the commuters and concerned on looking after the wellbeing.

On one hand it causes the increasing of cultural level, the creation of new job opportunities and an improvement of economic conditions. On the other hand, concentration in cities increased traffic jam, carbon dioxide, greenhouse gases emissions and waste disposal with consequences on health conditions. City dimension drives energy and natural resources demand, the need of territory redevelopment and adequate infrastructures availability.

The development of smart city leading to a progressive abandonment of rural areas towards greater cities and metropolis, which can offer many opportunities in terms of work, education, social life and so on. It can solve traffic congestion, school overcrowding, air pollution, loss of open space and skyrocketing public facilities cost.

There is just as much value in abstract expressions that can unite people, in particular heritage and culture have a crucial input to social cohesion. There is a role in art and preserved heritage to activate communities through cultural and heritage institutions, as well as through arts and cultural activities by interest groups, that will bring the people together.

The governments should not try to intervene to determine whether more people should migrate to cities; this should be left to people themselves and to the market. Mayors of these cities can use technology to simulate scenarios for cities, and, with the help of partners including government agencies and technology companies, use big data to improve urban planning, for example, using mobile data to model flows of people to quantify the infrastructure needed.

The next stage is to use technology to help build communities, such as with gaming technology to nudge behavior that is civic and sustainable, applying big data analytics to understand citizen behavior better, and data mining, including from counter inquiries, hotline calls and emails to improve public services.

The recent introduction of some online store for different shopping solution, UBER, Pathao, etc in transport sector, online ticket purchase platform and Bkash/Rocket for money transaction has given us a test of digital city. Our cities can initiate some projects of digital city.

Dhaka is one of those unplanned cities and all lacking all the amenities of a livable city. The health care, traffic situation make the city at the edge of collapse. Even then, let us dream of digital Dhaka, Chittagong, Rajshahi, Khulna, Sylhet, Rangpur, Mymensingh and Barishal cities with an efficient planning and through private and public partnership. 

M S Siddiqui is a Legal Economist, CEO of Bangla Chemical and Senior Advisor at PrimaDollar Operations Ltd, UK