Mandalay set to become Myanmar’s first smart city

Mandalay Set To Become Myanmar’s First Smart City
Sunset over Mandalay, Myanmar’s future “smart city” © Arno Maierbrugger

Mandalay is about to become Myanmar’s first smart city with authorities planning to modernise a number of sectors including power and water networks, traffic management and utilities by using social media and deploying new technologies such as artificial intelligence software and drones to revamp an inefficient administration based on paperwork.

In April 2018, Singapore, then the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations, proposed the creation of a network of 26 “smart cities” in the region that would harness technology to tackle some of the challenges created as the region’s once mostly rural population converges in cities. The scheme aims to use digital technology improve infrastructure and the quality of life for urban residents and provide them with better services.

Initially, three Myanmar cities were chosen to partake – Mandalay, Yangon and Naypyidaw – but it is in Mandalay, in the center of the country, where authorities have done most to embrace the proposal. The city nominated five areas to focus on, namely traffic management, road safety, public transport, parking and walkways, as well as water and solid waste management.

There are indeed plenty of issues. Currently, the tap water in Mandalay is not drinkable, and congestion is increasing as the number of vehicles has skyrocketed since the liberalisation of imports in 2012. The roads are potholed and pavements littered with trash.

Over the past year, some innovative projects took place in the city, all overseen by the Mandalay City Development Committee. Residents can now talk to the mayor on Facebook and pay for public services with QR codes, something not available in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, nor in the capital Naypyidaw. Authorities track garbage disposal with GPS and control traffic flows with remote sensors.

The committee undertook a digital survey of the city, using 3D images shot by drones and data obtained by municipal officers roaming the city with GPS devices that they say have given them a better picture of the households and businesses that should be paying property tax.

Tax money has paid for an Australian-made traffic control system which uses sensors installed in CCTV cameras to detect congestion and adjust the sequencing of traffic lights accordingly, as well as for devices for electricity authority staff to record electricity bills automatically by walking past houses rather than checking the meters.

There are also plans to install CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition technology and other security equipment as part of a “safe city” project, which, however, is met with suspicion by civil society organisations.

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Sunset over Mandalay, Myanmar's future "smart city" © Arno Maierbrugger Mandalay is about to become Myanmar’s first smart city with authorities planning to modernise a number of sectors including power and water networks, traffic management and utilities by using social media and deploying new technologies such as artificial intelligence software and drones to revamp an inefficient administration based on paperwork. In April 2018, Singapore, then the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations, proposed the creation of a network of 26 “smart cities” in the region that would harness technology to tackle some of the challenges created as...

Mandalay Set To Become Myanmar’s First Smart City
Sunset over Mandalay, Myanmar’s future “smart city” © Arno Maierbrugger

Mandalay is about to become Myanmar’s first smart city with authorities planning to modernise a number of sectors including power and water networks, traffic management and utilities by using social media and deploying new technologies such as artificial intelligence software and drones to revamp an inefficient administration based on paperwork.

In April 2018, Singapore, then the chair of the Association of South East Asian Nations, proposed the creation of a network of 26 “smart cities” in the region that would harness technology to tackle some of the challenges created as the region’s once mostly rural population converges in cities. The scheme aims to use digital technology improve infrastructure and the quality of life for urban residents and provide them with better services.

Initially, three Myanmar cities were chosen to partake – Mandalay, Yangon and Naypyidaw – but it is in Mandalay, in the center of the country, where authorities have done most to embrace the proposal. The city nominated five areas to focus on, namely traffic management, road safety, public transport, parking and walkways, as well as water and solid waste management.

There are indeed plenty of issues. Currently, the tap water in Mandalay is not drinkable, and congestion is increasing as the number of vehicles has skyrocketed since the liberalisation of imports in 2012. The roads are potholed and pavements littered with trash.

Over the past year, some innovative projects took place in the city, all overseen by the Mandalay City Development Committee. Residents can now talk to the mayor on Facebook and pay for public services with QR codes, something not available in Myanmar’s commercial hub Yangon, nor in the capital Naypyidaw. Authorities track garbage disposal with GPS and control traffic flows with remote sensors.

The committee undertook a digital survey of the city, using 3D images shot by drones and data obtained by municipal officers roaming the city with GPS devices that they say have given them a better picture of the households and businesses that should be paying property tax.

Tax money has paid for an Australian-made traffic control system which uses sensors installed in CCTV cameras to detect congestion and adjust the sequencing of traffic lights accordingly, as well as for devices for electricity authority staff to record electricity bills automatically by walking past houses rather than checking the meters.

There are also plans to install CCTV cameras equipped with facial recognition technology and other security equipment as part of a “safe city” project, which, however, is met with suspicion by civil society organisations.

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