Infrastructure: Colombo needs innovation to be globally competitive, says IT Innovator

JT-Singh

Nov 05, 2015 (LBO) – Sri Lanka needs innovation to engage Colombo with the rest of the world and to transform legacy assets through the digital medium, an IT innovator and self-labelled urban policy nerd said.

J T Singh, founder of a design-centric problem solving team at J T Singh Labs, said a key factor in turning cities global is urban innovation. City planners should get the support of new techies and geeks when changing cities and ‘Orgware,” he added.

“If cities want to create global influence what they need to do is create urban innovations and then export it to the rest of the world,” Singh said.

“What is Colombo doing in the area of sustainable job creation, energy, urban design or public health? What is Colombo doing that other cities can emulate. No high politics, no ideological talk, just exchange ideas.”

Singh termed it as city diplomacy where institutions and processes by which cities, or local governments in general, engage in relations.

He pointed out that technology can be used efficiently to build an agile city.

“Technologies can leapfrog cities that spent decades to build their infrastructure,” he said.

“We are living in digital time. You can create things that took ten years in two years now thanks to the internet and technologies like social, mobile, cloud, big data.”

He said the rapid transport system that innovated by Curitiba in Brazil is a good example where technology is used to get rid of subways.

“All you need is a dedicated bus lane. It basically is an over land train. It stops at a bus lane people get in and off very fast and it keeps going. That’s what you called agile city.”

Singh however said the best innovation in today’s time for cities is not technology but regulation innovation.

He termed it as ‘Orgware’ which is the governance, public services or regulations.

“I like to look at cities or infrastructure as hardware. The roads, buildings, bridges are the light infrastructure, most don’t use the term because we always think its heavy handed.”

Another way the cities can innovate is by changing the way they purchase solutions. In procurement they usually tend to favor larger companies.

Singh urged city planners to get the support of new techies and geeks when changing cities.

“Look at the Silicon Valley and Stockholm start ups, the cities are releasing their data to the public,” he said.

“Start ups are coming up and using their data and create all kinds of solutions that are more nimble, agile, cost efficient and immediately deployable.”

Singh noted that the cities are not made by planners or even governments but made by entrepreneurs.

“The worst cities in the world are overly planned cities. Basic planning is important but don’t over plan it.” he further said.