Enabling Future Smart Cities to Flourish


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.



A Primer on Internet Governance and the Role of ICANN

A link to the Council of Foreign Relations Internet Governance primer and a discussion on the role of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The primer also raises the question whether ICANN’s structure and operating model pose as boon or a threat to the governance of the Internet, whether Internet governance should in the hands of nation states or the “collective commons“.

A watch wearing river crab: Internet Democracy in China

I actually believe that China society at the grassroot is actually more open than under-reported by the international media. Nevertheless, I marvelled at the efforts and creativity of the Chinese netizen trying to overcome state censorship.

While researching on the state’s internet policy in China and the online civil society, I came across references to the terms and images of “river crab” and “wearing a watch” (and “grass mud horse” – a vulgar term involving one’s mother). These euphemistic terms were invented to avoid censorship that were established along the lines of state construct of a “harmonious society” (héxié shèhuì) and the ideology of “Three Represents” (sāngè dàibiǎo).

River Crab
The term “river crab” (héxié) which sounds similar to “harmony” is used when one’s posting had been subjected to online censorship (or being “harmonised”). Such is the popularity and acceptance of this term, that it made the leap from the internet and into mainstream lingo.

Wearing a Watch
The wearing of a watch (dàibiǎo) is pronounced in the same tone as “represents”, an acknowledgement of “The Three Represents”. The Three Represents mark an acceptance of the “advance productive forces” (other economical forces present in the Chinese socialist-market economy) in the CCP.

This phenomenon illustrates a missing meaningful and effective societal space in China to engage with the local and Central authorities. This gap forced the Chinese netizens to go underground to musk their opinions and grievances and often in doing so the complaint’s objectivity and purpose got lost in midst of this translation.

Related link:

An illustration of the Green Dam Youth Escort (a state-sanctioned censorship software) with Caonima (Source: Wikipedia)