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Indonesia Harnessing AI for Urban Planning

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The emergence of artificial intelligence in recent times has had a significantly positive impact on various employment sectors, including architecture and urban planning.

The Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB) organised a Webinar for the School of Architecture, Planning, and Policy Development (SAPPK) to provide insights and perspectives on using artificial intelligence in the architecture and urban development industry.

An alumna of ITB’s Urban and Regional Planning programme, who currently serves as a lecturer in Spatial Data Science at King’s College London, Dr Zahratu Shabrina, offered her insights. She observed that urban design and planning require a holistic and comprehensive approach. In her view, artificial intelligence has expanded the urban planning spectrum by providing tools and a deeper understanding of urban patterns, mobility, and societal needs.

Dr Shabrina also emphasised that AI has made efficient data integration from various sources easier. By analysing data related to weather, population mobility, pollution levels, and public preferences, urban planners can make more informed decisions in designing sustainable and environmentally friendly cities. The presence of AI in the world of urban planning offers opportunities to create urban environments that are more efficient, sustainable, and highly competitive.

Meanwhile, Zahratu highlighted the importance of harnessing emerging data, particularly in multi-service platforms. She noted that new data enables deeper spatial-temporal analysis, as demonstrated in research on motorcycle usage in Bandung.

For her, artificial intelligence and big data analytics are opportunities to understand and advance urban planning, design, and policymaking. However, she stressed that these technologies are tools. Their wise use by planners, designers, and policymakers will yield effective and positive results.

Discussing the presentations of Safiah Moore and Dr Andres Sevtsuk, she found several similarities in their research, particularly regarding generative artificial intelligence and the fusion of satellite imagery with machine learning. She emphasised the importance of accurate data usage, as the quality of the results heavily depends on the data used.

Furthermore, she highlighted the importance of understanding urban processes and how artificial intelligence and big data analytics can aid in comprehending these processes.

She also emphasised that although artificial intelligence and big data analytics have great potential, they can only partially replace traditional urban planning. In her view, conventional urban planning brings irreplaceable human aspects, such as local wisdom, culture, and social values, that are only sometimes reflected in numerical data. Therefore, combining these elements with artificial intelligence and big data analytics is essential to make urban planning more holistic and sustainable.

“Both elements can complement each other to enhance urban planning in a holistic manner,” she stated firmly. In her perspective, the collaboration between technology and human policy is the key to creating an ideal city.

Dr Shabrina also strongly emphasised the importance of collaboration and community involvement in urban planning. She argued that successful urban policies can only be imposed from the top down by considering local communities’ aspirations and needs. Involving citizens in urban decision-making is a moral obligation and an effective way to generate fair, sustainable, and inclusive planning.

Thus, Dr Shabrina envisioned that the future generation of planners would better understand the importance of collaboration and innovation in designing cities that meet the needs of all residents, preserve cultural heritage, and protect the environment. With a balanced approach between tradition and technology, he believes that Indonesia can build cities that provide a better quality of life for all its inhabitants.

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