Enabling Future Smart Cities to Flourish

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In this Project Syndicate’s article entitled “Life in the Uber City“, MIT’s Senseable City Lab researchers encourage policymakers to direct resources towards supporting “a bottom-up” ecosystem to make smart cities a reality and also to nurture “the regulatory frameworks” which creates the urban space to allow innovations to thrive.

On one hand, I agree with their call to enable a more conducive regulatory environment for smart city innovations like Uber, Nest and Airbnb to flourish, but I also believe that technology multinationals programmes such like Microsoft CityNext and IBM Smarter Planet should not be avoided. These multinationals play a very important role to support the larger local technology economy and provide important institutional knowledge and best practices to make such smart cities innovations truly scale up beyond district level and spread the benefits across the entire city.

Therefore, policymakers should not be forced to go one way over the other but keep an open mind about technology, and focus their effort on developing a regulatory environment which supports all innovation from both sides – start-ups or multinationals, to thrive, and that’s a really smart choice.

 

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Disruptive Internet technologies to revive stagnate services

The power of the Internet is at its greatest utility when its disruptive technologies (think innovative mobile payment or transportation services) are able to get ahead of highly regulated environment and revive public services that have stagnated over the years.

Uber CEO, Travis Kalanick nailed this point during the 2013 the Aspen Institute’s Washington Indeas Forum.

Related link: The Black Car Company That People Love to Hate

US Innovation Act – Towards stronger patent protection and curbing abusive patents litigation

Having worked for Microsoft Research and the technology industry, I fully support enabling an environment for new and constant innovation, particularly in a competitive and free market economy. Almost all the new technology and services we enjoy today like the Internet are developed by taking on different parts of innovative technology and ideas pioneered by a variety of sources such as universities, government agencies and research firms together.

Therefore I am excited about news of the US Innovation Act which aims to address the problem of abusive patent litigation by patent trolls, diverting companies on focusing in creating new innovations. Patent trolls are entities which exerts questionable patent rights against alleged infringers in an attempt to collect licensing fees, but does not actually manufacture products or supply services based upon the patents in question – a typical economic rent seeking behaviour.

Hopefully the new Innovation Act will “level the playing field by controlling discovery costs, raising pleading standards, and making fee-shifting a more meaningful deterrent to frivolous allegations“. (H/T: Innovation, Not Litigation, Google Public Policy blog)

Troll
Troll – Zoe, used under Creative Commons licence.

The Rise and Fall of 2007-2013 Labor Government

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Peter Hartcher, the Sydney Morning Herald’s political and international editor, has recently published a special five parts feature entitled, “The Meltdown“. It traced the rise and fall of the 2007- 2013 Australian Labor Government led Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.

They were two extraordinary politicians. The great sadness of this time was that they were both in the same generation with the same ambition.

Together they should have been invincible.
~ Penny Wong

Singapore – 30th Happiness Country in the World (United Nations World Happiness Report 2013)

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Singapore ranks thirty in the 2013 World Happiness Report issued by the United Nations, a ranking of nations’ well-being that includes measures such as GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices.

The report edited by John Helliwell, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs is an effort to provide a scientific basis to incorporate well-being as part of the consideration for countries’ sustainable development policy .

UBS’s 2 Billion Lost – In Defence of Ringfence Investment Banking

Banks still haven’t learnt. They think they can regulate themselves. That’s just not so.

– Hildegard Fässler, Swiss MP and Finance Specialist

The latest UBS derivatives trading scandal backdated to 2008 has renewed the call to impose strong  regulation on financial institutions. Despite UBS CEO, Oswald Grübel’s efforts to improve UBS risk management , the latest scandal reflects a lack of progress from the supposed move towards a “low-risk client driven model“.

One would asked, what happened to the bank’s “reformed” internal risk management and external audit function?

Some of the measures promoted by international regulatory bodies and leading economists include imposing higher capital standards, ringfencing investment banking from the wider banking organisation and in some cases separating of investment banking operations from their parent organisation.

Related link: Of course it’s right to ringfence rogue universals (Financial Times)

Melbourne, the world’s most livable city – 2011 Global Liveability Survey

Melbourne won the 2011 title of most livable city, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual survey. (See BBC’s Melbourne edges out Vancouver to top liveable city list)

The result came as a bit of a surprise. Since my university days, I have always known Melbourne to be a great place to live – an open, lively, diverse, sporty and cultural society, access to good quality fresh produce, decent infrastructure, a decent rate of economic growth, a variety of connections to the rest of the world by plane.

However, over the years, my impression that this great city was slipping down the ranks because of the huge population increase, lack of affordable housing, overstretched public health systemovercrowded public transport and ageing infrastructure and the  exceptional rising cost of living. Unfortunately, there have been a lack of real political leadership (from both sides of politics) at the state/ federal level after years of white paper churning. Just asked any average Melbournian about the state of the city? Australia has become a really unaffordable place to live or visit.

The only explanation that I could thought of to why these worsening issues did not affect the city’s overall rating is probably because their target audiences are those really affluent people who don’t really depend on the city’s crumbling public, over-utilised infrastructure or services.