Sat | Oct 16, 2021

Masaya Fujiwara | Developing smart cities critical to sustainable development

Published:Sunday | June 6, 2021 | 12:06 AM
An aeriel view of prototype ‘city’ of the future which is built on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt Fuji in Japan. Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.
An aeriel view of prototype ‘city’ of the future which is built on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt Fuji in Japan. Called the Woven City, it will be a fully connected ecosystem powered by hydrogen fuel cells.

A courtyard in the Woven City, which will serve as a home to full-time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies in a real-world environment.
A courtyard in the Woven City, which will serve as a home to full-time residents and researchers who will be able to test and develop technologies in a real-world environment.
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara
Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara
Toyota Woven City
Toyota Woven City

Today, many people are talking about ‘smart cities’ in the world. In fact, pilot projects are going on in some places while in advanced regions concrete projects are being implemented. As Japan has tackled smart-city development for more than 10 years, I am pleased to share with a receptive Jamaican audience Japan’s experience of developing smart cities for future reference of smart-city development in Jamaica.


The concept of ‘smart city’ is diverse according to city and region. Generally, it means “the sustainable cities or districts where optimum solution is sought to address various issues related to urbanisation by using new technology such as ICT in the city management”. Recently, smart cities are watched with keen interest as a solution to rapid urbanisation in the world. According to the United Nations, in the year 2050, seventy per cent of the population will live in cities. This rapid urbanisation causes many problems such as traffic congestion, shortage of water supply, increased energy costs, waste management, and sewage treatment.

Further, global issues like aggravation of natural disasters due to climate change and a new situation brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic makes the development of smart cities more relevant.

Among the 17 goals of the SDGs that were adopted in 2015 at the United Nations, “sustainable cities and communities” is included as the 11th goal. Developing smart cities responds to this goal, but it relates to SDGs as a whole, including clean water and sanitation (Goal Six); affordable and clean energy (Goal Seven); and industry, innovation and infrastructure (Goal Nine).


Since around 2010, when the world started to recognise smart cities, Japan launched various smart-cities projects. Kitakyushu Smart Community and Yokohama Smart City Projects were developed to tackle energy efficiency using the energy management system (EMS) and the smart grid. Shiojiri City in Nagano Prefecture has dealt with emergency management, providing disaster risk-related information by using a sensor network. Kanazawa City in Ishikawa Prefecture tackles the recreational area, making available information concerning tourism, arts, culture, and sports to visitors to enhance the convenience of traversing the city. In depopulated local areas, “compact cities” have been developed, building essential facilities within walking distance from a public-transport station.

But a new type of smart city is emerging using digital technology such as IOT, sensors, big data, and artificial intelligence (AI) to create new services like Maas – Mobility as a Service – and to enhance quality of life. These multifaceted projects cover several areas like the environment, energy, transportation, telecommunications, education, medical services, and health by using ICT (information and communications technology) and data. The smart city in Aizuwakamatsu in Fukushima Prefecture, Kashinoha Campus City in Chiba Prefecture, as well as Fujisawa SST in Kanagawa Prefecture are examples. Additionally, this year, Toyota launched its “Woven City” project on a 175-acre site at the base of Mt Fuji. It is a prototype “city” of the future, with people, buildings, and vehicles all connected and communicating with each other through data and sensors, presenting new forms of urban life.

These multifaceted smart-city ideas come from the concept of Society 5.0, which is the core of the new Japan revitalisation strategy named “Japan is Back”, adopted in 2013. It is aimed at achieving economic growth to create Society 5.0 through the Fourth Industrial Revolution using tools such as IOT, data, AI, and robotics, and enhancing industrial competitiveness as well as quality of life in the rapidly ageing Japanese society. Society 5.0 is “A human-centred society to settle social problems and ensure economic development by using high-point technology fusioning cyber and physical technology, which comes four stages after Society 1.0 – known as the Hunting Era Society; Society 2.0 – Agrarian Society; Society 3.0 – Industrial Age; and Society 4.0 – our current ICT era.

To this end, a new “Super City” programme has been launched to introduce digital technology in every field and sector of a city from the beginning of concept design and built-in data-sharing among cities. New National Strategic Special Zones have been introduced across Japan to create attractive business environments.


Based on these experiences, Japan has been actively engaged in developing smart cities abroad. In December last year, we drew up the ‘Strategy of Overseas Development of Infrastructure System 2025’, with a target of 34 trillion Yen (around USD$310 billion) worth of infrastructure investment through a public-private partnership. This new strategy emphasises economic growth through carbon-neutral and digital transformation, resolution of the social problems of each country by contributing to SDGs, and the realisation of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific (FOIP)’. Developing ‘smart cities’ is ranked as a priority area of this strategy.

To promote Japan’s Smart City abroad, we prepare Japan’s Smart City catalogues to resolve various issues like SDGs through Japan’s Society 5.0. The catalogue highlights three main urban-development approaches:

(1) Eco City – Environmentally friendly cities with low carbon, recycling, and energy-consumption efficiency, etc;

(2) Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) – Urban development centring on public transport systems, reducing dependence on cars;

(3) Resilient Cities against natural disasters with disaster risk management systems like early warning and emergency communication systems.

Solutions that Japan can offer such as a safe and secure society, smart mobility, energy efficiency, a recycling society, public-health improvements, and better-quality education using online learning, etc.

Japan developed smart-city projects mainly in Asia, especially in ASEAN Countries, and India, which experienced rapid urbanisation through economic and population growth. Japan provides assistance to these smart-city projects through the afore-mentioned three approaches and will consider enhancing them in the future by using a multisectoral approach incorporating digital technology.

In the Philippines, for example, based on the master plan developed jointly by BCDA – a Philippines Public Corporation and JOIN ↔Japan Overseas Infrastructure Investment Corporation for Transport and Urban Development), the New Clark City Project has been developed, 120km North of Manilla, to build a sustainable city on the former US Air Base site by using ICT technology since 2016. Japanese companies are interested in the areas such as SMART Grid, 5G, and automated driving technology.

A number of other projects are going on in Asia like the development of a smart city in Hanoi, Vietnam; the Bansu Station Area Development in Bangkok, Thailand; and Delta Mass City, East of Jakarta in Indonesia, through Japanese public and private partnerships.

Developing smart cities in Jamaica

Developing smart cities in Jamaica in particular in an SEZ as a logistics hub is a timely approach. Aspects of an eco-city and a resilient city are relevant in the Jamaican context of being susceptible to natural disasters and seeking low carbon development. Besides, though ambitious, if it is well designed using ICT and data in various fields such as the environment, energy, transportation, communication, etc. It could enhance competitiveness, ensure economic growth, thus resolving social problems by improving security and employment.

Jamaican authorities can develop a project based on lessons of the past and the ongoing experience of other countries, especially those in Asia. It is to be noted that in developing countries where the hurdle of regulation is relatively low, the so-called ‘leap-frog’ phenomenon may occur as utilisation of new technology can advance quickly. In order for a smart- city project to become viable, Jamaican authorities need to have a clear vision of and strategy as to what it wants to achieve by developing a smart city and what issues and challenges it wants to address by making use of smart-city technology.

Lastly, I would like to point out the importance of high-quality infrastructure and the cooperation among various stakeholders when we tackle smart-city development.

First, there is a huge demand for investment in the infrastructure in developing a smart city. As we agreed at the G-20 Osaka Summit meeting in 2019, it is indispensable for world economic growth to ensure infrastructure and investment accompanied by quality and not only volume. The openness of infrastructure, transparency, and economic effectiveness in terms of life-cycle costs and debt sustainability are important factors.

Second, to promote smart-city projects, we need to have a good consultation mechanism among different stakeholders, especially a viable platform between the private and public sector as the high and technology and innovation of private companies play an essential role. International partnerships among interested countries are also important. It is recommended to introduce various schemes to facilitate private companies to actively participating as investment partners, including the provision of tax incentives and ease of business regulations and procedures by removing bureaucratic red tape .

Finally, Japan will host OSAKA, KANSAI, JAPAN EXPO 2025 from April 13 to October 13, 2025, in Yumeshima Osaka. The theme of this world exposition is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”. The latest technology and innovation will be demonstrated. We expect that this exposition will enhance and accelerate the smart-city concept in the future. We hope many countries will participate and that Jamaica’ s participation will yield fruitful results towards the future development and realisation of smart-city projects in Jamaica.

As in Asia, the Japanese experience of smart-city development could help the development of smart cities in whatever ways possible and contribute to sustainable development in Jamaica.

- Ambassador Masaya Fujiwara is ambassador of Japan to Jamaica. Send feedback to