What Makes A Smart City? – A Malaysian Perspective


Intelligent cities globally are enabling smart technologies

Smart technology is becoming a crucial commodity in the urbanization of smart cities. Many nations worldwide are increasingly focused on creating urban areas to house growing populations and to encourage the development of smart city technology to power these concept cities. A smart city consists of various key components that will help solve urban issues such as utilizing new-age resources to implement sustainable energy management, incorporating smart buildings and smart healthcare, encouraging green infrastructure and smart investments, as well as the reduction of urban traffic and street congestion. Malaysia has been making significant progress and inroads into the smart city concept, particularly with respect to new economic and urban housing developments. The essence of a smart city ultimately lies in the application of ICT infrastructures to support social and urban growth by improving upon the smart city’s economy, a centralized but efficient government as well as overall involvement or participation of its citizens.


As with any futuristic cities, existing city infrastructure and buildings need to be upgraded to conform to or comply with the standards of a smart city in the future. Apart from the apparent “physical capital”, human resource or “social capital” is also indispensable to a working or functional smart city. Urban survival and competitiveness relies solely upon an IT-proficient workforce with quality hands-on knowledge and on-demand skilled workers. The original concept of the smart city has been introduced as a strategic tool to factor in modern production values within a common framework in order to highlight the growing importance of ICTs. Human capital is also another essential element or aspect in the making of a smart city. Billions of dollars spent on building infrastructure and ICT framework will all be in vain if the workforce or human resources needed to run, operate, manage and maintain the elaborate and complicated systems underlying the employment of sophisticated technologies and scientific know-how. The growth and development of future smart cities greatly depend on the optimal dissemination, distribution, utilization and sharing of data and information. After all, in the Information Age, knowledge is the catalyst and the fundamental driving force behind any successful smart city.


Among the key areas that are being developed at Iskandar Malaysia include Johor’s new state administrative capital of Kota Iskandar, premium & luxury waterfront residences at Puteri Harbour, state-of-the-art industrial park at SiLC Nusajaya, a medical & wellness centre that is Afiat Healthpark, EduCity Iskandar Malaysia’s global education hub, Medini Iskandar Malaysia’s flagship CBD and mixed developments, Legoland’s theme parks and recreational lakes, as well as the internationally acclaimed Pinewood Iskandar Malaysia Studios. Measuring some 2,230 acres in total built-up area, Medini Iskandar Malaysia located at Iskandar Puteri (formerly known as Nusajaya) is set to become a metropolis to be reckoned with, and is one such example of a complex yet intelligent township on the verge of becoming a smart city. Its pioneer CBD (commercial business district) initiative coupled with other cutting-edge projects are potential socioeconomic drivers or engines of growth within southern Johor as well as neighbouring Singapore. With consistent investment, persistent development and advanced innovation, Iskandar Malaysia is earmarked as the next tech hub after Cyberjaya.

Other notable upcoming “smart city developments” include Forest City at Iskandar Malaysia, an artificial island city project situated offshore of Johor Bahru. Also, not forgetting Bandar Malaysia, 1MDB’s own iconic megacity development which is part of the Greater Kuala Lumpur blueprint masterplan. These are just two futuristic metropoles in Malaysia rivalling the likes of Putrajaya and Kuala Lumpur. Meanwhile, in the buzzing city centre of Kuala Lumpur, the much talked about Bukit Bintang City Centre (BBCC) is another prominent example of an intelligent city within a city. Situated just across the famed Berjaya Times Square shopping mall, BBCC has long been touted as a prime candidate to replace the landmark KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Centre) at the heart of the KL ‘Golden Triangle’ – a renowned and distinguished shopping hub within the South-East Asian region. Smart cities are excellent examples of the seamless integration of living spaces with luxury residences and world-class business offices amid complex mixed developments – encompassing an overall contemporary yet modern urbanistic lifestyle bursting with joy, comfort, pleasure, entertainment and nature living.


Launched in November 2006 as an economic development corridor, Iskandar Malaysia is currently experiencing a unprecedented media hype. During the moment, there has been tons of interest on Iskandar Malaysia from regional investors specifically Singapore, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, China and Japan. Due to its strategic accessibility, opportunity stemming from this project is huge. Iskandar is a complex yet comprehensive development ranging from commercial, residential to a multitude of niche business enterprises & endeavours. From Legoland to EduCity, and from Medini to Forest City – the myriad of projects, programmes, initiatives, joint-ventures and collaborative effort from local and foreign investors alike are a marvel and a majestic sight to behold. From social programs and new infrastructure, to talent development and new investment, Iskandar Malaysia is truly at the forefront and edge of innovation. And it all boils down to constant collaboration between the federal government, private sector and NGOs, whereby IRDA (Iskandar Regional Development Authority) has been entrusted to facilitate and promote the development of Iskandar Malaysia. – HFM