The need for smart cities in Asia

Find out why smart city technologies could help rising income growth and lifestyle changes.

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Asia’s cities are characterized by their large population and high population density. So it’s not surprising that 16 of the world’s 28 megacities (cities with populations exceeding 10m) are in Asia. The United Nations forecasts that the urban population of Asia’s megacities will double by 2030 from 2010. Rapid urban growth, fueled by mass migration, translates to rising income growth and lifestyle changes, which are stretching the infrastructure and resources of cities, particularly in emerging Asia.

Asian infrastructure investment needed to stay abreast of urban growth will result in a spending gap of USD 2.2 trillion per year until 2025, according to the UN.

Asian urbanization’s “late-mover advantage” should provide plenty of room for investment in smart city technologies, in CIO's view, from smart energy and smart mobility to smart healthcare. In Asia, scalability for these technologies is real due to the proliferation of large sized and densely inhabited urban spaces that have often grown haphazardly. They face an array of basic infrastructure and environmental challenges that CIO anticipates will be increasingly addressed through the application of rapidly maturing smart city technologies.

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Smart cities – Shifting Asia

Urbanism works when it creates a journey as desirable as the destination

Paul Goldberger
Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic


Ultimately everything in cities will depend on computing
power, in the same way they depend on electricity

Wang Jian, former Chief Technology Officer of Alibaba

Tech titans lead the smart city drive

China exemplifies the Asian government-driven smart city model, which lays down frameworks, guidelines and funding. The country invested CNY 500bn in its national smart city program during the 12th Five-Year Plan period (2011–2015), leading to the launch of over 90 pilot smart cities. By 2017, there were 500 smart cities at various stages of development with an estimated market size of CNY 650bn.

The key technologies being employed in China’s smart cities include IoT, big data, cloud computing and other smart systems. The unique part of China’s smart city model is its drive to leverage and encourage domestic innovation by working closely with Chinese technological leaders.

The homegrown technologies developed by these companies are primarily being applied to e-government, smart transportation and smart living, all of which cover a broad array of smart concepts.


We are rebuilding the aeroplane even as it is

Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic

Ahead of the curve in digital transformation

The Singapore government is leading efforts for a digital revolution that feeds through not only the public sector, but also the various segments of society (including private stakeholders) to ensure that they are able to fully harness digital technologies to their benefit.

In 2014, it launched the “Smart Nation” initiative to take advantage of the various uses of technology to build a cohesive nation and maintain its competitiveness among the world’s top cities.

The initiative has seen the launch of various applications. Examples range from on-demand public buses that use autonomous technology and public transport data to help buses pick up passengers at specified bus stops, to real-time parent-teacher portals and smart water meters that monitor and collect water consumption data and alert households of water-pipe leaks.

Hong Kong

We have no time to waste – not if we want to turn
Hong Kong into one of the world’s smart cities

Paul Goldberger, Pulitzer Prize-winning architectural critic

Catching up

Ranked as the 18th smartest city in the world, Hong Kong seems to have lagged behind its global peers when it comes to efforts in digital transformation. One reason could be that Hong Kong’s long period of prosperity, through its reliance on property and financial services industries, has bred a certain level of complacency, making it less dependent on economic diversification and technological innovation.

But things are changing, with the government's launch of the "Smart city blueprint for Hong Kong" in 2017, backed by HKD 50 billion in 2018 for innovation and technology development.

The increased connectivity and integration with Shenzhen and other cities within the Greater Bay Area could potentially accelerate Hong Kong’s technological advances. CIO believes Hong Kong has the necessary government support, funding, and infrastructure to drive large-scale digital transformation within just a few years.


Tokyo 2020 is not just about sports

The official Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games

Showcasing for Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo is a good example of a “smart city” tackling two major issues: how to deal with a shrinking population and an aging society as well as how a city can add value to a country’s maturing economy. CIO believes ICT likely key to transforming Tokyo into a “super city” and offering higher efficiency and more amenities to the people of Tokyo. Another catalyst is the 2020 Olympic Games.

Under Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's super city vision, special zones with relaxed regulations have been established to spur economic growth. More specifically, the super city vision highlights three key technologies to take root in the near future: autonomous driving (initially only in limited areas), e-government (one-stop government services) and cashless payments (digital platform for transactions).

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Download your free copy of our full research report

Smart cities – Shifting Asia

What are smart cities?

Smart cities generally consists of six major pillars – connectivity, governance, services, automation, health, and mobility - and employ key technologies like artificial intelligence, big data.

How big is the smart city opportunity in Asia?

CIO expects Asia’s smart cities to generate trillions of dollars in economic value over the coming years as the annual combined smart city spending climbs to USD 800bn by 2025.