Asian cities paving the way with people-first technology

 |   Singapore News Center

SINGAPORE, June 2, 2014 — At the World Cities Summit in Singapore today, Microsoft showcased the work of cities that are tackling urbanisation challenges head-on by transforming and connecting their cities with innovative technology. As cities across Asia face the largest sustained population migration in human history, city leaders are using technology to confront challenges such as budget cuts, limited natural resources, and outdated infrastructure.

“When we launched Microsoft CityNext last year, we evolved the conversation around smart cities beyond infrastructure to engage cities’ most important resource – human capital. We believe that true transformation will only be achieved if cities take a people-first approach, enabling cross-collaboration and citizen engagement,” said Laura Ipsen, corporate vice president of Worldwide Public Sector, Microsoft.

“Through Microsoft CityNext, forward-thinking city leaders in Asia and all over the world are already building cities that are modern, safe, healthy, and educated by moving beyond infrastructure and connecting with people.”

To meet growing demands and citizen expectations while improving the quality of their public services, mayors and city leaders are also adopting new citizen-centric standards such as ISO 18091. Published in early 2014, it is the first ISO standard that gives guidelines for the implementation of ISO 9001 Quality Management Systems in local government.

“The new ISO 18091 standard provides cities with a holistic vision of the real issues for continuous improvement. It can be combined with services or initiatives like Microsoft CityNext, which refers to the standard, to help cities focus on the efficient use of resources and quality of life of its citizens, in order to create healthier, greener, more prosperous cities,” said Rob Steele, ISO Secretary-General.

Modern Cities
Today’s always-on citizens demand access and transparency from their city leadership. Citizen-centric apps are enabling people to directly engage and interact with their city governments for services that make life easier and more convenient. For Singapore’s national water agency—Singapore PUB, developing the MyWaters app for Windows Phone and Windows 8 has enabled the agency to better connect with the community and facilitate two-way dialogue.

“Singapore PUB has invested in this application to enable Singaporeans to gain easy access to water-related information. For example, users are able to obtain water level information in key drains and canals during storms. They can also get real time updates and images from CCTVs on road situations during heavy downpour. Users who downloaded the app can view/share photos from PUB’s Active, Beautiful, Clean Waters sites, learn water conservation tips and provide feedback on water-related issues,” said Wesley Lewis, Senior Assistant Director (Communications), 3P Network Department, Singapore PUB.

“This application provides seamless up-to-date information at your finger tips and is a great way for us to reach out and interact with users wherever they are.”

In addition, the Land Transport Authority of Singapore (LTA) shares its rich repository of land transport data through the ‘Data Mall’ section of its web portal,, powered by Windows Azure. This allows the public, especially interested application developers, to build unique mobile apps while drawing data from LTA.

The data-sharing initiative is made possible through a Memorandum of Collaboration (MOC) signed in October 2011 with Microsoft Singapore under the Singapore Urban Transport Solution (STARS) initiative.

“The first initiative commencing under this collaboration will enable LTA to tap on Microsoft’s substantial research capabilities, resources and networks. Through an innovative cloud service using Microsoft’s Windows Azure platform to host LTA’s various land transport data, we hope to enable seamless download from ‘Data Mall’ at MyTransport.SG portal to facilitate development of innovative land transport applications,’ said Mrs Rosina Howe, LTA’s Group Director, Innovation and Infocomm Technology.

Safer Cities
Urban areas that grow in density have typically seen an increase in hazards to public safety as well, and city leaders are adopting technologies like Big Data and business intelligence to handle issues ranging from petty crime to homicides to mass-scale terrorism.

For example, the New Zealand (NZ) Police worked with Intergen, a Microsoft partner, to build Signal, a software-as-a-service solution hosted in Microsoft Azure that can gather intelligence, identify incidents and provide additional insight from various social media channels. NZ Police also brought together the organisation’s silos of information into a single platform known as Real-Time Intelligence for Operational Deployment (RIOD), which is based on Microsoft SharePoint.

“With Signal, we get better insights into public sentiment, as well as a better way to manage resources and infrastructure during major events and critical incidents. RIOD gives us a clear focus on real-time opportunities when determining the provisioning we need to put in place to respond to incidents,” said Inspector Neil Macrae, Manager of Deployment at the national headquarters of the New Zealand Police.

“Improved collaboration and access to real-time, actionable intelligence help the New Zealand Police to provide faster and more meaningful responses to any situation.”

Healthier Cities
For many city leaders across Asia, building a robust healthcare system is a major priority to confront the issue of an aging population as a result of decreasing fertility rates and increased longevity. At the same time, city leaders are being asked to provide better access to information and services and respond faster to everything from disease outbreaks to natural disasters.

Columbia Asia, a healthcare company that owns and operates hospitals in Malaysia, India, Vietnam and Indonesia, worked with Microsoft to upgrade their server operating systems and databases at 10 hospitals. The upgrade provided the organisation’s clinical systems with higher security data protection, reduced the risks of data loss and improved reporting. Deploying Office 365 has also enabled staff to be more productive and collaborate easier, resulting in better healthcare delivery for patients.

“Having a fast, reliable server platform has a direct impact on patient services. Doctors can assess, investigate and diagnose much faster because they have patient data instantly at the fingertips, so patient waiting time is reduced,” said Yogessvaran Mohantas, Project Management Office, Team Lead, Columbia Asia Sdn. Bhd.

Educated Cities
The foundation of CityNext is the belief that citizens—including the young people that are being educated to be the leaders of tomorrow, are a city’s best partner in solving the challenges a city faces. In May, Microsoft Thailand partnered with the Office of the Basic Education Commission to provide 8 million students and 400,000 teachers across Thailand with access to Microsoft Office 365 for education. The initiative drives the development of 21st century skills that are vital to the country’s Smart Thailand 2020 strategy, which aims to foster sustainable national growth and raise the standard of living through technology.

“The 11th National Economic and Social Development Plan states that Thailand’s top priority is to develop its human resources through improvement in education. Microsoft’s support will ensure that educators and students are empowered with solutions and platforms that are aligned with their needs,” said OBEC Senior Advisor in Technology for Teaching and Learning Anek Ratpiyapaporn, in last month’s announcement.

For more information on how cities all over Asia are working with Microsoft CityNext, please visit the Microsoft Asia Pacific News Center at


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