September 16, 2013 By John Jung
Someone let the cat out of the bag. I have been in China for many years promoting the smart and intelligent community movement throughout the country including at Langfang’s APEC Conference as well as in Tianjin, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Beijing and Hong Kong, among other cities. I brought mayors from recognized intelligent cities with me and promoted the concept at the Shanghai Expo. Chongqing, Tianjin, Tianjin Binhai, Jiading, Hong Kong and Shanghai were even recognized by ICF as Smart21 and Top 7 Intelligent Communities over the years. But for years there had been little indication of China’s broader interest in smart-city development in the same way as other countries around the world. However, that is changing! Although China’s smart city thinking is still in its infancy, it is nevertheless big and going to get bigger – in a GIG- way (sorry for the pun).
China plans Gigabit Internet speeds by 2020
Let’s get serious here - although China can boast the world's largest Internet population of Internet users (600 million or 44% Internet penetration), average Internet speeds currently tend to be at a meagre 1.7 Mbps compared to speeds nearing 10 times faster in neighbouring countries like Japan and Korea. In its new broadband strategy, launched to help stimulate China’s IT industry, 400 million households in China are expected to get high-speed broadband at 20Mbps by 2015; rural households will reach 4Mbps by 2015; and some key urban areas will even get access to gigabit (1000 Mbps) speeds by 2020. In addition it is expected that 85 percent of the population will have access to 3G and 4G mobile networks. China is the world's largest market for smartphones – accounting for 240 million units, twice the U.S. market. While there are significant plans ahead to create efficient, fast and affordable infrastructure in China, according to the China Internet Network Information Center, large numbers of Chinese (54%) still do not have access to computers and the Internet, nor feel they have a need to. In fact, in rural areas, Internet penetration is only at 28 percent.
China is tying its ICT sector enhancements to increased efficiencies as part of its urbanization strategies. Smart city strategies are no longer deemed just concepts by authorities, but rather are being accepted and implemented on a large scale. China’s Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development is responsible for the promotion and implementation of urbanization in China and has indicated that it is “committed to carrying out city planning, construction, administration and operation by means of smart city strategies so as to achieve a low-carbon lifestyle, convenient services, and intelligence -intensive features.” Additionally, a Digital City Engineering Research Center has been established to ensure excellence in design, smart city indicators, standards and policies as well as providing guidance for the construction of smart cities across the country.
China selected 90 cities for its first phase of smart city development along with an additional 103 cities as pilot cities to implement smart city construction initiatives, representing 1.1 trillion RMB ($180 Million US). Chinese authorities predict as many as 600 to 800 cities in China will ultimately be engaged in Smart City initiatives valued at 2 trillion RMB ($325 Million US).
I predict that we will see countries and regions like China, S.E. Asia and India emerging as great proponents of Smart City and Intelligent Community development over the next decade as they look to be globally competitive and bring their communities in line with other cities and regions that will have developed as Smart and Intelligent Communities.
About the Intelligent Community Forum
The Intelligent Community Forum is a think tank that studies the economic and social development of the 21st Century community. Whether in industrialized or developing nations, communities are challenged to create prosperity, stability and cultural meaning in a world where jobs, investment and knowledge increasingly depend on advances in communications. For the 21st Century community, connectivity is a double-edge sword: threatening established ways of life on the one hand, and offering powerful new tools to build prosperous, inclusive and sustainable economies on the other. ICF seeks to share the best practices of the world's Intelligent Communities in adapting to the demands of the Broadband Economy, in order to help communities everywhere find sustainable renewal and growth. More information can be found at www.intelligentcommunity.org.
Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.
ICF co-founder John G. Jung originated the Intelligent Community concept and continues to serve as the Forum's leading visionary. Formerly President and CEO of the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance and Calgary Economic Development Authority, he is a registered professional urban planner, urban designer and economic developer. He leads regular international business missions to US, European, Asian, Indian and Australian cities, and originated the ICF Immersion Lab program. John is a regular speaker at universities and conferences and serves as an advisor to regional and national leaders on Intelligent Community development. The author of numerous articles in planning and economic development journals, he has received global and Toronto-based awards for his work in collaboration and strategic development and sits on numerous task forces and international advisory boards.
ICF co-founder Louis Zacharilla is the creator and presenter of the annual Smart21, Top Seven and Intelligent Community Awards and oversees ICF's media communications and development programs. He is a frequent keynote and motivational speaker and panelist, addressing audiences of tech, academic and community leaders around the world, and writes extensively for publications including American City & County, Continental Airline's in-flight magazine and Municipal World. His frequent appearances in the electronic media have included both television and radio in South Korea, China and Canada. He has served as an adjunct professor at Fordham University in New York and is a Guest Lecturer at Polytechnic University's Distinguished Speaker Series. He holds a Masters Degree from the University of Notre Dame.