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Navigating Indonesia’s Smart City Landscape

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The notion of smart cities that leverage information and communication technology (ICT) to elevate the overall quality of urban living has evolved globally. At the forefront of this transformative movement, Kurnia Novianti, a researcher from the Regional Research Centre of the National Research and Innovation Agency (BRIN), has emerged as a beacon illuminating the path towards embracing and customising the smart city concept. In her insightful exploration, Novianti delves into the intricate mechanisms and strategies of adeptly adapting the smart city paradigm to diverse urban landscapes.

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Through her work, she contributed significantly to the discourse on the intersection of technology and urban development, offering invaluable perspectives on how these innovations can be harnessed to address the myriad challenges modern cities face, ultimately paving the way for a more sustainable, efficient, and interconnected urban future.

Speaking at the PRW Forum Discussion on “Adopting and Adaptation: Implementing Smart City in Surabaya, Indonesia” held at the BRIN Science Area Sarwono Prawirohardjo, Jakarta, Kurnia emphasised the widespread adoption of smart city concepts not only in Indonesia but across the world.

Kurnia’s research delved into the dynamics of the Surabaya Smart City 2019 (SSC) competition, investigating the groups of actors involved in the adoption and adaptation of smart city concepts. The competition showcased a top-down implementation of urban development programmes by the city government, providing an opportunity for local communities to create unique innovations that directly benefit their lives.

One notable outcome of the SSC 2019 was the emergence of various innovations, such as vibrant costumes crafted from recycled plastic or other materials, Wastewater Treatment Installations (IPAL), organic charcoal made from coconut shells, barcodes for plant identification, and several other localised innovations.

The researcher highlighted the focus on smart environment, smart society, and smart economy pillars, as promoted by the Surabaya city government during the competition. Many innovations created were simple technological tools, including a diverse range of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (UMKM) products.

In Surabaya, Kurnia has elaborated on two main concepts used to analyse the Surabaya Smart City 2019 case – governmentality and improvisation. These concepts help explain the dual nature of SSC 2019 as a top-down government programme on one side and, on the other, a source of improvisations in the form of unique responses from Surabaya’s local communities.

Kurnia asserted that this research contributes a unique perspective to studying smart cities in Indonesia. Broadly, the research aids in understanding urban transformations by examining the interactions of cultural, social, economic, and political factors within specific urban communities. The smart city concept, in general, is seen as a solution to urban problems, addressing issues related to infrastructure and the city’s ability to provide a comfortable space for its residents.

According to Kurnia, the effective use of digital technology can help address demographic, economic, environmental, and security challenges. Therefore, the smart city concept becomes an ideal solution for cities to tackle population, economic, social, and security issues.

However, Kurnia emphasised that implementing smart city concepts requires careful consideration of local contexts. He suggested that cities, including Surabaya, should ideally have a strategic city planning strategy developed by academicians rather than relying solely on the city government’s perspective. He argued that this adaptation to local contexts is crucial, considering the unique challenges faced by each city.

From an instrumental perspective, implementing the smart city concept in a city can be intricate due to the diverse actors involved, including various institutions and responses from city residents. Despite this, Kurnia concluded by expressing confidence that all these complexities can be resolved with careful consideration and adaptation, making the smart city concept a viable and effective solution for future urban challenges.


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