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Data collection ‘crucial’ in building smart, sustainable cities

Experts in the property sector and in urban development have described data collection as crucial in transforming communities.

In a panel discussion during BusinessWorld’s Virtual Economic Forum on Wednesday, they said some of the current pressing problems is the way data collection is organized and the lack of policies for it.

“Our problem is organizing the plethora of data that is out there so how do we organize it, how do we organize it, and how do we deploy it into solutions that impact the livability of these places,” said Rafael Fernandez de Mesa, president of Lima Land, Inc. and Cebu Industrial Park Developers, Inc.

Mr. De Mesa is one of the panelists who discussed the topic “Building Smart Cities and Sustainable Communities” during the two-day forum.

David T. Leechiu, chief executive officer at Leechiu Property Consultants, said some of the smart city technologies being built in new townships include having a storm detention center, lighted streets at night, security, and waste management.

“The simplest and probably most urgent platforms would probably be about security, where facial recognition, CCTVs, and making that available and integrating the private sector security system would be LGU (local government units), would go a long way,” Mr. Leechiu said.

Experts described data as “a powerful commodity” in promoting digital transformation in smart cities and in building sustainable communities.

“The way we collect, store, analyze, and use data for better decision making, whether it’s for planning, whether it’s for service delivery, or financial management is going to be crucial,” said Srinivas Sampath, director of the urban development and water division at the Southeast Asia regional department of the Asian Development Bank.

“The way to do that would be to ensure that there is sufficient security mechanism put in place for data integration, transparency,” he said, adding that privacy issues concerning the way data would be shared should also be addressed.

The government will play a “pivotal role” in collaborating for developing sustainable and smart cities and communities.

Enrico C. Paringit, director at the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), said one of the first things needed to be addressed is the key policies regarding data.

Data from LGUs may be used to analyze and create projects and systems specific to each LGU, serving their constituents’ needs and improving the services of each government unit. Every LGU would have different problems to solve and resources to deploy.

“The government, being an enabler, can let the private sector come in with the innovation, come in with the technological solution but in doing that, the private sector should also collaborate,” Mr. Sampath said.

The use of data can also help local leaders make “informed decision making” and “science-driven planning,” Mr. Paringit said.

Collaboration among and between the private sector is also needed to create systems for smart cities.

“We also need to standardize the data, how you collect it, but you have to be willing to share it as well, because if you share it and we can improve as a whole, it’s only going to benefit the entire country,” Mr. De Mesa said. — Keren Concepcion G. Valmonte