In conversation with Dato Faris Yahaya, Managing Director, Cyberview Sdn Bhd
Sapan: Why is there so much focus on smart cities right now? And what do people mean when they describe a “smart city”?
Dato Faris: While smart cities have been discussed (by governments, property developers, technologists and some segments of society) for at least two decades now, the concept has become more prominently explored in recent years as a result of the many challenges that humanity faces today – from over-population to economic inequality. These are challenges that we are trying to address foremost by leveraging technology and innovation to create solutions and an ecosystem that are sustainable in the long-run. Here in Cyberview, we have crystallised these solutions through two key development initiatives – our transformation of Cyberjaya into a Smart City and the positioning of the city as a Living Lab for innovations.
We think of smart city as one that is open, intelligent, inclusive and empowered by leveraging on technology to improve the liveability and efficiency of city operations and services. While doing this, we also keep in mind the needs of present and future generations with respect to infrastructure, economic, social, and environmental aspects.
Hence, feedback from the community on tested solutions becomes critical in the development of a smart city. A smart city cannot be founded solely on the vision and goals of the government and stakeholders, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. A true partnership with the community will result in people getting involved, engaged, and excited to contribute over the long term. Only then can a smart city truly embody the needs and demands of the people.
Sapan: Who owns our cities? Is it the tech giants? Citizens? Governments?
Dato Faris: It’s the people front and centre. They are the ones living within cities and basically driving the growth and sustenance of a city. Where smart cities are concerned, we should think about technology as a tool that complements and enhances quality of lives. Technologies deployed need to serve a purpose within a city, and as a tool that promotes inclusiveness and empowerment among the people.
And so with Cyberjaya positioned as a Living Lab, this city acts as a testbed for ideas to be piloted and validated. Startups are able to test and tweak their ideas while piloting their offerings to the community of Cyberjaya, of which 20% are early tech adopters. This places people as the focal point – understanding their needs, offering them solutions, and getting their feedback while doing so. Thus, Cyberjaya essentially provides the much-needed platform for entrepreneurs to test out their ideas, which could translate to the commercialisation of their products.
Sapan: How will smart cities influence and change social behavior?
Dato Faris: With people as the focus for the development of cities in the first place, it is inevitable that smart cities will influence the way of life of the community, and vice versa. For example, if a city is built with sustainability in mind, the community living in it would most likely be green living adopters. This is because a purpose-built
ecosystem encourages relevant values to emerge among the community and strengthen desired change in behaviour.
Here in Cyberjaya, innovation is key in the city’s transformation into a Global Technology Hub. We are constantly striving to improve the ecosystem for innovation to thrive. Today, Cyberjaya boasts one of the largest tech communities in the country – we are home to 800 tech companies, 48 multinationals, and 95,000
creative souls. And we hope to grow the numbers even further by setting in place and leading the City Innovation Council (CIC) which consists of other stakeholders in Cyberjaya – MDEC, Setia Haruman, MaGIC, and MCMC.
The CIC provides endorsements to creators and innovators in the mechanics of identifying real-life problems within the city that need to be solved, which would then translate into deployable solutions with a purpose. The unique community that we have here, together with the CIC are the catalysts needed to spur the inclusion of innovative ideas throughout all aspects of smart living in Cyberjaya.
Through a movement of citizen empowerment, conversations will begin to flow among the community, Cyberjaya stakeholders as well as tech entrepreneurs on what is needed here to ensure a continued organic growth of this smart city. Eventually, a culture of innovation, transparent governance and robust citizen engagement that will ensure the vitality of Cyberjaya.
Sapan: What are the biggest challenges that are facing cities in becoming smarter?
Dato Faris: The development of smart cities globally has to guarantee a collaboration among different stakeholders towards a common goal. Placing Cyberjaya as an example, part of the formula that we ascribe to is rallying all our stakeholders with a unified and clear vision to drive the Cyberjaya vision towards its transformation into a Global Technology Hub, and operationalising this vision through strategic collaborations.
Talent is also a key part in developing a successful smart city. In Malaysia for instance, we have brilliant minds with great ideas. But these individuals and startups lack the necessary support and resources to polish up their ideas and commercialise them in the long run. Hence, it is important for us who are leading the smart city vision to lay out a conducive ecosystem for these entrepreneurs to thrive. That’s precisely what Cyberview’s Living Lab development pillar does – providing support to startups through our Living Lab Accelerator Programme and nurture their ideas to be piloted and validated in Cyberjaya.
And while smart cities are being developed as a result of rapid global urbanisation, it is important for them to stay relevant and economically viable. What we have done in Cyberjaya is to ensure that our two development pillars (Smart City and Living Lab) work hand in hand to create a sustainable ecosystem for smart city solutions to be created. For example, ideas that are piloted and validated in Cyberjaya would contribute to the city’s smart city solutions. After these ideas have been tested and tweaked, more innovations can be created on top of the ideas that were piloted in the first place. It is a feedback loop that we have been consistently driving in order for us to reach the goal of Cyberjaya’s transformation into a Global Technology Hub.
Sapan: What is your favourite smart city and Why?
Dato Faris: At this point, I would have to say that my favourite smart city is Cyberjaya. This tech city possesses unlimited potential given the ecosystem we are putting in place and the presence of talents within the community that calls Cyberjaya home.
This year is a significant one for the city as it celebrates its 20th Anniversary. A significant milestone, we are at an exciting time as we embark on the next phase of Cyberjaya’s transformation in a Global Tech Hub; a lofty vision but one that we are committed and confident to achieve.
At the heart of this tech city is its spirit of innovation that is the catalyst behind its drive in perfecting this smart city and impacting the lives of its citizen. The entire city scape is offered as a testbed for tech and innovation, all with the aim of increasing Cyberjaya’s liveability appeal.
Every day presents an opportunity for us to be smarter about how we use our resources, how we engage the community, to promote innovation in the private sector, and to support new enterprises. Through our Living Lab initiatives, we encourage startups to test, tweak, and pilot their ideas in the city. These startups would then help to contribute to smart city solutions through the support they receive from the ecosystem in place.
All of these elements are important in developing a smart city. Not only are we encouraging innovations through strategic collaborations and nurturing startups, but we are also on a green path in increasing Cyberjaya’s sustainability. That is my holistic vision which I hope will have a positive impact on the lives of the community here.
That was Dato Faris. He will be part of a panel discussion at Growth Innovation and Leadership (GIL) Congress in Malaysia by Frost & Sullivan on the 13th of April 2017. Do signup for the event and get an opportunity to meet and hear from them in person and feel inspired.
Dato Faris Yahaya was appointed as the Managing Director of Cyberview Sdn Bhd in June 2013. He has more than 25 years of experience in Audit, Banking, Financial Advisory and Consultancy Services.
Sapan Agarwal drives content and marketing for Frost & Sullivan. Sapan is based out of Kuala Lumpur Malaysia and can be reached at email@example.com | +603 6204 5830