The link between smart cities and Malaysia’s economic growth

There are already several smart cities in Malaysia. As the urban population increases, the country must continue to develop them.


What do Cyberjaya and Kuala Lumpur have in common with London, Tokyo and Melbourne? All are smart cities, designed to enhance their citizens’ quality of life.

London and New York integrate and connect the internet of things better than the rest. Smart cities are evolving. A citizen that lives in a smart city wins back up to 60 hours per year thanks to technological advancements.

In Malaysia, smart cities offer significant growth potential, but challenges remain

Malaysia’s smart cities are some way behind as they are still new. That is not a bad thing as Malaysia has avoided the pitfalls of being an early adopter. Authorities can apply advanced technology and systems that already work.

It means there is significant potential for growth and improvement in these cities. By working with other nations, Malaysia can move forward. It is making progress towards an integrated rail system. It is working with the UK to develop a manageable and sustainable strategy.

At the same time, there are challenges to overcome. Analysts question whether these cities will do enough to help reduce crime. They also query whether the poor will benefit. Malaysia’s energy efficiency awareness is currently weak. The country lags behind other nations in adopting green technology. It will take time to catch up.

However, the commitment to the use of electric buses is a step in the right direction. Insufficient infrastructure and resources could also hold Malaysia back. The government must budget for the work required for smart cities to thrive.

Smart cities in Malaysia focused on addressing congestion first

Authorities must address rapid population growth in urban areas. Traditional techniques and management are inadequate. Malaysia needs to overcome traffic congestion and overcrowding. Other challenges include the lack of affordable housing and damage to the environment.

Source: Smart Cities Asia

However, it takes time to plan, integrate and manage smart cities. The Malaysia City Brain is an example of using proven methods to benefit Malaysia. City authorities have focussed on addressing their most pressing challenge – congestion. The Malaysia City Brain system should help ease the heavy traffic.

The system monitors roads in real time. Planners can programme it to control traffic lights to optimise the flow of traffic. They can keep road users moving and reduce traffic jams. It will also detect problems such as accidents or blockages.

Once the system is working well in Kuala Lumpur, planners could apply it to other cities. They could develop similar systems to meet different challenges.

Data democratisation is vital for developing smart cities

Launching the Malaysia City Brain will help Kuala Lumpur better manage its traffic. It will also help emergency services respond to calls and save lives. Drivers will be able to use the system to identify the quickest route to the emergency. Over time, the system can become more efficient. This evolution depends on data democratisation.

Malaysia City Brain will generate vast amounts of data. The system will analyse data captured by images, speech and video. Alibaba, Malaysia Digital Economy Corp and Kuala Lumpur City Hall developed the system. They will give entrepreneurs, start-ups, research institutions and universities access to the data. They want them to use the data to deliver analysis, insights and innovations. This team effort should provide improvements for its future deployment.

Using Alibaba’s technology is a massive boost for Malaysia

Using Alibaba’s technology is an enormous boost for Malaysia. Alibaba first used its City Brain technology in Hangzhou. There, traffic efficiency increased by 15% as a result. Malaysia is the first country outside of China to use it. Alibaba has high hopes it can help the country take the lead in smart city management.

Collaboration is vital for Malaysia’s smart cities

Malaysia cannot build smart cities on its own. Its partnership with Alibaba shows how collaboration can drive technological advancement forward. Data democratisation should help speed up development through internal collaboration.

Through its UK collaboration, Malaysia has access to technology and business partnerships. Malaysian companies impressed their British counterparts. Many British companies now have a presence in Cyberjaya.

Australia recently pledged US$23.2 million for developing smart cities in ASEAN. Malaysia has a long-standing good relationship with Australia. It stands well placed to gain from this new venture.

Malaysia must elevate its smart cities to develop its economy

Malaysia seeks to become a developed economy by 2020. This target is one of the critical goals of Vision 2020. Continuing to expand and advance smart cities will help boost economic growth. Experts link advancing digital transformation – including the internet of things – with economic growth.

World Bank analysts reported that Malaysia cannot achieve this goal without developing smart cities. By 2050, statisticians project that 90% of the country’s population will live in urban areas. It is critical that Malaysia continues to invest in its smart cities. It must do so to ensure its economic growth and productivity does not stall.