Entering the second decade of the 21st century, Asian nations have begun to integrate smart technology into the everyday life of its citizens.
Though rather sporadically, Indonesia is also stepping up its game in building a SmartNation. While Jakarta has implemented a public service monitoring platform, three hours away from the capital city, the city of Bandung comes up with its own set of projects.
“There are 500 cities in Indonesia. Imagine what we can achieve if we are all connected. Sadly, we do not have that yet,” says Ridwan Kamil, mayor of Bandung, stressing the importance of connectivity in the digital era.
With a sense of humour that could match a cheeky teenager, Kamil brings a refreshing sense of leadership to Indonesia’s second most densely populated city.
As an architect, he spent years working in the United States before returning to teach at the prestigious Bandung Institute of Technology and start architectural firm Urbane Indonesia, which portfolio includes Suzhou Financial District in China and Al-Noor Ecopolis in Syria.
“As a mayor, my job is to fix problems. In 2014 alone, I had made 1,200 decisions on issues ranging from budgeting, traffic jams, to even a dead cow,” Kamil says at the recent digital industry festival ID Byte 2015.
“In building this city, I strongly believe in the value of the intangible, which is happiness,” he further explains, adding that he combines imagination, scientific approach, and global outlook in his leadership.
We are taking a look at some of Bandung’s key programmes under Kamil’s leadership in implementing SmartCity.
Teknopolis, future home of tech startups
Bandung is a relatively young city with 60 per cent of its population aged under 40 years. “There are so many singles in this city that I built them a Single’s Park,” Kamil adds.
Young people play a great role in building the city’s economy. According to Kamil, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) build up about 55 per cent of Bandung’s economy.
To support the city’s blooming creative and tech industry, the government of Bandung is set to build Teknopolis, a modern city where local and international tech companies will be based.
Sprawling across an 800 hectare area in Gedebage, South Bandung, the city-in-a-city will also include Bandung Creative and SmartHub. The facility will include coworking spaces, F&B outlets, studios for designers, and even a cinema to showcase the work of Indonesian filmmakers.
“Youth in Bandung, they can create. But it is hard for their businesses to take off,” Kamil says, referring to Bandung’s tech startups which are mostly focusing in game and app development. The government will support these startups by allowing them free rent for up to three years in SmartHub’s coworking spaces.
Kamil was inspired by the so-called “budaya nongkrong” or “hang-out culture” in the Indonesian community. “It is a very Indonesian thing. Your best ideas usually come when you hang out with your friends, chatting and laughing. The government of Bandung wants to support that, which is why there will be cafes in the hub. That is where startup founders can meet their future investors,” he explains.
The project had begun to take off in July 2015 and is expected to be completed within 10 years. The funding to build Teknopolis was subsidised by the provincial government, with private developers also chipping in the mega-project.
Though he does not give names, Kamil expresses that several multinational tech companies have shown interest to move there.
Bandung Command Center, a helping Big Brother
Worth IDR 27 billion (approximately US$2 million), the Bandung Command Center is a state-of-the-art monitoring facility located in city centre.
Launched in January 2015, there are two main activities conducted in the facility that was built with aid from the government of Norway, which are social media monitoring and X-Igent Panic Button. It also includes CCTV and a GPS tracking system to monitor traffic and assist municipal agencies.
“What we are doing here is monitoring tweets coming from citizens of Bandung. For example, if people are tweeting about traffic jam in particular areas,” Kamil explains.
“Using Big Data, we gather information about which area has the worst traffic jams, and we try to go from there,” he further explains about how the government is using Big Data to plan city development.
Another crucial element of Bandung Command Center is the X-Igent Panic Button which was launched in July 2015. Currently available as a Google Play mobile app, X-Igent Panic Button is developed by tech company Idea Plus Indonesia to assist Bandung citizens in emergency situations.
Users only need to press the red button in the app and they will be connected to Bandung Command Center for assistance. The app also able to contact a “white list”, a set of emergency contacts created by the user.
The Bandung Command Center was designed like a two-storey bee hive. Inside, there are 26 monitors, a control room, an operator room, and a meeting room.
“And yes, I did intend to design it like the set of Star Trek. I am a Trekkie,” Kamil adds.