Bangladesh

Dhaka not a ‘smart city’

Dhaka has not made it to the list of 109 smart cities in the world, according to the 2020 Smart City Index.

The index based on the economic and technological data, as well as citizens' perceptions of how "smart" their cities are, was published on Thursday by The Institute for Management Development, in collaboration with Singapore University for Technology and Design.

Singapore, Helsinki and Zurich have topped the 2020 Smart City Index, in a year that saw many European cities fall in the rankings.

Hundreds of citizens from the 109 cities were surveyed in April and May this year and asked questions on the technological provisions of their city across five key areas -- health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance.

"It is of course too early to draw the lessons from Covid-19. However, it is clear that we are at a critical juncture, where the sanitary crisis is still very much with us, while the economic and social crisis that it will entail has hardly started," said Bruno Lanvin, president of the IMD Smart City Observatory.

"This year's Smart City Index suggests that the cities that have been able to combine technologies, leadership and a strong culture of 'living and acting together' should be able to better withstand the most damaging effects of such crises," he added.

Bengaluru, Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, Ho Chi Min, Osaka, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and Bangkok are some of the Asian cities which made it to the list.

Asked, Adil Mohammad Khan, general secretary of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, told the Daily Star that service quality in Dhaka is far below the standard level for which the capital was not considered in the list.

"We are behind in terms of quality, ability and accessibility… if we can do better there, it will bring good results for us," he said.

The concept of smart city is very conventional now but there is variation in its definition, said Adil. He said many countries consider a "technology-based" city a smart city. But in a city like Dhaka where basic amenities and service facilities are not adequate and quality of service is low, ensuring quality services for all is more important.

"Concept of a smart city can assist us but our main target will have to be to ensure civic facilities for all. Giving quality service at a low cost is more important than making Dhaka a smart city," he said.

Md Sirajul Islam, chief city planner of Dhaka South City Corporation, said, "Dhaka is one of the most densely populated cities and we are also being affected by climate change."

He said the DSCC mayor has taken initiatives to turn Dhaka into a smart city and they have already received proposals from different organisations in this regard.

The mayor is reviewing those and soon they will start implementing those, he said. The DSCC mayor has also taken an initiative to prepare a masterplan for the city, targeting up to 2050.

"We have already involved renowned architects and planners in this regard and have held five workshops. Consultancy works regarding the masterplan will start next month. We will be able to start its implementation within a year," he hoped.

As part of the announcement of the prime minister to turn the country into a developed one by 2041, DSCC also wants to make Dhaka a developed city by this time, he said.

About the Smart City Index, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam said they have seen the study and are trying to find out the reasons for which Dhaka failed to secure a position in the list.

He said the total area and density of the city will have to be taken into consideration in the survey as Dhaka is a very densely populated city where around 50,000 people live in per square km area.

Acknowledging that the service quality of DNCC is still not up to the mark, the mayor said they do not have the manpower and equipment necessary to ensure better services for all.

"But we are working in this regard," he assured. "We are trying to be more digitalised… We will introduce online tax payment from January 1 next year and start an app within two months -- Shobai Mile Shobar Dhaka -- where people will be able to file complaints," he said.

"We also have a plan to develop the new 18 wards under DNCC. The prime minister has already given approval of Tk 4,025 crore at an Ennec meeting in this regard," he said. 

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