A day in the life of a smart city

Guo Baichun, the Vice Mayor of the City of Yinchuan, gave some personal insights into the pressures of being in office in a smart city. He said that people often ask what the motivation is behind making this relatively small city of 200,000 people in the western region of China into one of the country’s showcase smart cities.

Baichun noted that it’s not a motivation, so much as the result of the daily pressures of his job and the need to find solutions to serve citizens better. He outlined how his day starts with lines of people waiting at his office with documents for him to sign and expecting immediate decisions. He said it is too difficult to make the right decisions in a short time and some mayors control risk by circulating the documents to the relevant departments for comment, but typically they come back a couple of months later with little that is of help.

Source: City of Yinchuan

More immediate problems

He said the second difficult problem he had to grapple with was that of traffic and congestion, “There is a lot of congestion and my concern is that if we don’t make a good plan – if we get the predictions about traffic wrong – then roads in future will be too narrow with not enough capacity.”

The traditional way to control the congestion and pollution hiding the blue sky was by limiting access to the city based on cars’ registration plates on different days, but he said citizens complained about this.

Another issue, he noted, was to figure out where the pollution came from – traffic, construction sites or factories in the surrounding areas. He said, “We had to make a one-stop decision to stop all the factories or plants for a few days to get the blue sky back”, but again, that led to a lot of complaints.

He added that increasing urbanization offered greater potential to criminals so then you have to look at the police force. Then there are new hospitals and industries; new problems brought by urbanization. The Vice Mayor stated, “We don’t know how to make the rules”. He pointed out that for ordinary hospitals there are documented rules, but suddenly, “There are 15 e-hospitals that should follow the rules too, but I don’t have the documents for them and who will check them? I need supervisory bodies to follow up.”

He asserted, “The purpose of government is to serve citizens – we need to know their demands and complaints…we want to solve the problem of providing accurate answers.” This is why Yinchuan is looking to technology, information development and exposing information, because the city needs a sustainable way of working instead of firefighting. He concluded, “We are looking at making it active and for a new way of management – this is one of my worries of being a mayor. We need support with data and so on, hence Office of Big Data here in Yinchuan to help us solve [the]problem of data management.”

Data is the solution

Wang Chuan, Director General, Bureau of Big Data Management & Services, Yinchuan, is there to help the mayor look after citizens better. He said there are three goals for smart cities from his perspective that will help the mayoral office solve its problems and six supporting systems.

Source: City of Yinchuan

The goals are to:

  • improve the city’s management;
  • benefit and serve the citizen as a priority; and
  • promote industrial development.

To these ends, the Bureau is working on the following initiatives:

Smart governance based on better data collection, storage and analysis, through ten major systems and associated sub-nodes, various IT, a 12345 hotline platform (so that the city can better understand its citizens), and breaking down barriers to information sharing.

Regarding traffic and congestion, he said smart transport is the answer which means comprehensive monitoring, sharing data about traffic, refining traffic management and integration services to benefit people.

Smart environmental protection will improve the level of environmental governance through real-time monitoring by controlling sources of pollution, such as chemical factories. Monitoring will also help improve behavior of many organizations by correlating and analyzing directional governance and compliance with it.

The Director General added that smart safety – innovative urban safety management – involved putting technology (including facial recognition) into bus stations, airports, commercial areas, bus stations. So far more than 3,000 surveillance video monitoring and feature retrieval systems have been deployed in Yinchuan.

More smarts

He stated that a smart industry approach would resolve the worries about the supervision of industries and that his office is constructing new supervision models to promote new formats for manufacturing smart city equipment. That is, using new technologies to promote the upgrading of traditional operations. Or to put it another way, “Opening data to our authorities means we can use big data for IoT and artificial intelligence to innovate our traditional industries such as textiles”.

The Bureau of Big Data Management & Services has plans for a smart life initiative, building 100 smart communities around the city with 11 public services facilities and three service platforms. They will support amenities such as smart express cabinets for shopping, smart bins and smart medical systems. And on that note, there will be five medical systems, ranging from mobile medical terminals to community hospitals for simpler problems and first referrals.

They will be complemented by e-hospitals, which, through the internet, can help the community and other hospitals. Then there are regional, triple A hospitals for more serious medical problems, plus large specialist hospitals, such as in Beijing and other big cities.

The Director General said the Yinchaun model for innovative city management will help solve the mayor’s dilemmas, but its true purpose was not to ease the mayor’s worries, but to improve people’s lives.


    About The Author

    Snr Director, Research & Media

    Annie Turner has been researching and writing about the communications industry since the 1980s, editing magazines dedicated to the subject including titles published by Thomson International and The Economist Group. She has contributed articles to many publications, including national and international newspapers such as the Financial Times and International Herald Tribune, and a multitude of business-to-business titles. She joined the TM Forum in 2010 and is responsible for overseeing the content of the Research and Publications portfolio.

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