07:21 (GMT +7) - Thursday 24/05/2018

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Clever forever

Released at: 20:07, 30/01/2018

Clever forever

Photos: Viet Tuan

Hanoi is attempting to get ahead of the smart city game.

by Le Diem

A smart area project in Hanoi costing more than $4 billion has been recently approved by the government, with construction to commence in the first quarter of 2018. With investment from a joint venture between Vietnam’s BRG Group and Japan’s Sumitomo Corporation, the area covers more than 272 ha in the north of the capital, along the relatively new road to Noi Bai International Airport, and will feature smart systems and facilities once completed. It will be regarded as the entry to the city and is part of a process to turn Hanoi into Southeast Asia’s most modern “smart city”.

Necessary demand

Hanoi plays an important role in the government’s massive plans to turn Vietnam’s major cities into smart cities, given the rapid urbanization seen throughout the country.
Vietnam has about 800 urban areas and the urbanization rate increased from 19.5 per cent in 1990 to 36.6 per cent in 2017; the fastest in Southeast Asia according to the latest data from the Ministry of Information and Communications. The rate is estimated to rise to 60 per cent by 2050.

Infrastructure, however, has struggled to keep pace, resulting in poor living conditions for many, traffic congestion, and increased pollution. Under the circumstances, like many other countries, Vietnam has chosen to intensify the development of smart cities in order to cope. According to a 2017 report from Navigant Research, about 250 cities around world are working towards becoming smart cities. In Vietnam, smart urban areas can already be found in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hue, Da Nang, Quang Ninh, Da Lat, Nha Trang, and Phu Quoc Island.
Hanoi plans to spend VND3 trillion ($133 million) on smart city projects in the 2016-2020 period and as part of its vision to 2030. It has signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Microsoft in the expectation of creating the best possible conditions for promoting IT application, becoming a smart city with the most advanced, modern, and up-to-date technologies to best serve local residents and businesses, according to Deputy Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Ngo Van Quy.

Top priorities

Hanoi will develop smart projects in fields that have a broad influence on many people and enterprises, such as smart government, smart transport, smart energy, smart tourism, smart education, and smart healthcare. According to Navigant Research’s report, among smart projects being carried out at the moment, the top priorities are smart government (40 per cent of projects), smart energy (27 per cent), and smart transport (18 per cent). 

The city targets having the country’s best e-government practices and one of the best in Southeast Asia, according to Ms. Phan Lan Tu, Director of the Hanoi Department of Information and Communications. 

It has applied IT in its management activities, such as a residential database with over 7.5 million records and civil status records. It successfully connects the document management software of the Office of the Government and its People’s Committee Office, all departments, agencies and sectors, and the people’s committees of its districts and towns.

A public service portal at www.egov.hanoi.gov.vn/ has been launched, providing online public services and receiving feedback and questions from citizens and enterprises on administrative procedures. The portal is considered a breakthrough in the city’s efforts at simplified and transparent administration, improving its business environment and the sense of responsibility among public servants. 

Online data exchange has been enhanced in other fields, such as the issuance of criminal record checks and driving licenses and the processing of procedures relating to social insurance. The city targets its e-government system covering all its 584 communes and wards by 2020, with 80 per cent of public services being provided online.
In terms of smart transport, Hanoi launched an I-parking pilot last May that brings more convenience to drivers by allowing them find vacant parking spots and pay parking fees using their smartphone. 

The pilot was conducted on Tran Hung Dao and Ly Thuong Kiet Streets in the central district of Hoan Kiem, with 17 parking lots with a capacity of 248 vehicles. It involves the digital mapping of car parking areas, the use of management software, and the installation of cameras to record vehicle registration plates in parking lots. The lots are open seven days a week from 6am to 10pm, with one open 24 hours a day.

The hourly rate is VND15,000 ($0.66) and can be paid with VISA or Mastercard credit cards via the iParking app or by SMS. The app automatically alerts users 15 minutes before their parking time expires. 

Piloted from May to July, the service received positive feedback from tens of thousands of drivers. “The service is smart and helpful, as it makes parking easy to find,” said Mr. Anh Dung, who used the service multiple times. “The cost is also reasonable compared to elsewhere, depending on the place and time. I hope it will appear at other places around town.” Indeed, the Hanoi Department of Transport recently proposed expanding the service to 161 parking lots in the four central districts of Hoan Kiem, Ba Dinh, Dong Da, and Hai Ba Trung. 

The Hanoi Transport and Services Corporation (Transerco) also launched a bus finder app a few months ago, at www.timbuyt.vn, and a bus management center called Bus WebGPS. The app aims to provide better bus services and make it more convenient for passengers to use public transport. Nearly 450 million passengers took bus trips in Hanoi last year, according to Transerco.

Buses are equipped with journey-tracking devices that transmit data to an online center. Information on bus locations, operations, and traffic congestion are analyzed, enabling staff to publish decision on transport options. The app works on Android and iOS phones and tablets and comes in Vietnamese and English. Together with i-Parking, the city also set up 500 cameras at key spots to monitor traffic violations. 

Hanoi plans to build a smart travel network in the time to come with seven functions: a database, tourist maps, user-friendly websites compatible on smartphones, big data for smart travel predictions, public wi-fi, tourist information and emergency support, and high-end devices at five-star hotels.

Meanwhile, information technology and digitalization are seen as solutions to boost smart tourism in Vietnam, according to Mr. Nguyen Van Tuan, General Director of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism.

It started e-marketing through the “My Hanoi” program on CNN and is cooperating with news networks in Northeast Asia to promote the city’s tourism. 

Travel companies in Vietnam have also been active in applying technology in their operations and services, building digital databases and providing updated information on tours, promotional programs, and other activities on websites, offering e-payments, and setting up online channels to interact directly with customers. “Through the integration and transparency of information, we can follow feedback from customers to improve and create new products to stay abreast of trends,” said Mr. Nguyen Tien Dat, Deputy Director of TransViet, one of the country’s leading tour operators. Hanoi welcomed some 24 million visitors in 2017, including nearly 5 million foreigners, up 9 per cent and 23 per cent, respectively, against 2016, according to the Hanoi Department of Tourism. 

In education, the city put online enrollment software into use in the 2016-2017 school year, with 2,700 schools participating. It also launched an e-gradebook and provided accounts to managers, teachers and staff, and implemented an e-system updating the study results of students at about 700 schools. 

The city also began to connect its population database for medical examinations and treatment. Hanoi is the first place to deploy a large e-medical management system, containing 900,000 profiles. Its smart medical system stores and manages the health records of residents and provides online public services and a medical insurance card that can be used at all medical centers, with patients choosing just one.

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