23
August
2019

Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand At the Opening Ceremony of ASEAN Smart Cities Network Conference and Exhibition

23
August
2019

Opening Remarks by H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand At the Opening Ceremony of ASEAN Smart Cities Network Conference and Exhibition

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Opening Remarks
by
H.E. Mr. Don Pramudwinai
Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Thailand
At the Opening Ceremony of ASEAN Smart Cities Network Conference and Exhibition
Thursday, 22 August 2019
GMM Live House, Central World

 

Excellencies,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my great pleasure to welcome all of you to the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) Conference and Exhibition 2019.

Inaugurated last year during Singapore’s Chairmanship of ASEAN, the ASCN is being carried forward under Thailand’s Chairmanship and by your continued joint efforts. This is because the issue before us — urbanization — is a challenging one, and needs to be urgently addressed if we are to realize sustainable development.

Urbanization has increased rapidly around the world. This trend is likely to continue.  Today, half of all people in ASEAN live in urban areas, and an additional 70 million more will be moving to the cities by 2025.1 This is because economic opportunities continue to be concentrated in cities; and cities offer greater conveniences.

Yes, urbanization has created opportunities, supported by investments in infrastructure development, transportation and smart home projects. But constantly growing urban populations also create their own challenges, whether in terms of resources consumption, strains on social services, or environmental impacts.

How then can we get the best of both worlds in our cities? That is, how can we enjoy growing economic opportunities and access to facilities while also minimizing strains on resources, social services and the environment?

Equally important, how can we harness our urban areas to generate sustained growth and sustainable development nationwide and region-wide?  How can we use the growth and development dividends to help bridge development and income gaps across the urban and rural divide?

Coming up with intelligent and smart solutions in cities is one way.

And that is why the ASCN was born. That is why all ten ASEAN countries have designated some 26 Smart Cities throughout the region to network and cooperate with one another in generating smart solutions that will help catalyze sustained growth and sustainable development in the region and beyond.  Through the ASCN, we also hope to engender additional support that will contribute to the building of an ASEAN Community that is people-centered, leaves no one behind, and looks to the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Since the Inaugural Meeting of the ASCN last July in Singapore, there have been many significant developments.  Viable projects have been initiated, helping to attract more private investment into the region, and helping to support ASEAN’s strategic priority of becoming a Digital and Green ASEAN.  Thai cities in the ASCN — Bangkok, Phuket and Chonburi — as well as other smart cities nation-wide are eager to take part in this networking and cooperation process.

The number of ASCN partnerships is also growing. Some 40 partnerships have been established involving ASCN cities and solution providers and international partners. We certainly hope to see more and more of such public private partnership as we work towards realizing a thriving regional smart cities ecosystem.

There are two strategic value-added dimensions that Thailand has been underscoring this year, as we seek to take the ASEAN Smart Cities Network into the next generation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

First is the sustainability dimension.

If smart cities are not sustainable, then they are not effective.  If smart cities do not contribute to reducing disparities and gaps, then they are not useful.

Thailand believes that besides driving growth and prosperity, smart solutions should also be applied to address the common sustainability issues that we face.

The environment is one of such issue.

There is a strong link between quality of life in cities and natural resources management. One of the top priorities for smart city development in Thailand is  “Smart Environment”. This means using technology to help systematically manage the environment and climate change in areas such as water and waste management, weather care, and building housing that is resilient to natural disasters.

Another issue is the urban-rural divide.

This challenge needs to be addressed, and ASEAN Smart Cities should be part of the solution. Digital accessibility and connectivity, through the “connecting the connectivities” approach, will help close these development gaps and disparities. That is why the Thai Government has pursued the “Net Pracharat” programme, which has installed high-speed broadband networks for 35,000 villages this year, and will increase coverage to all villages next year.  This is so the people in the rural areas are not left out of business opportunities and income generation arising from the digital revolution.  Smart Cities will endure if they co-exist side-by-side with Smart Villages.

Second is the external partnership dimension.

To ensure that we realize the full potential of the ASCN, we need to enhance cooperation with external partners. That is why at the G20 Summit in Osaka in June, the Prime Minister of Thailand invited G20 countries to join with ASEAN in a number of key initiatives to help drive sustained growth and sustainable development in our region.

One such activity is the ASCN.  Three others are financial inclusion, marine debris/environment, and human capital development. I would like to welcome the representatives from G20 member countries who are here with us today.  This is a great opportunity for the ASCN to engage with our G20 friends, who will share best practices in the development of smart and sustainable cities as a driver of sustained growth and sustainable development.

I am pleased to learn that many of ASEAN’s Dialogue Partners and G20 members have already undertaken engagement with the ASCN.  China and the United States have already organized the study visits of smart cities in their respective countries for ASCN members. The ROK and Japan will organize international conferences on smart cities in September and October 2019 respectively, and ASCN members have also been invited to participate.

In these discussions over the next few days, I call on our G20 friends to explore with ASEAN Smart Cities practical cooperation projects that will help promote smart and sustainable cities in our region.  Potential areas may include managing the impact of urban living on the environment, or Smart Environment; promoting more effective resource utilization through digitalization, or Smart Economy; effective energy management, or Smart Energy; and more effective public service systems through technology, or Smart Governance.

I hope that, from these discussions, there will be concrete follow-up projects on different aspects of Smart Cities. Indeed, Smart Cities cooperation will have a positive impact on promoting enhanced connectivity and supporting sustainable development, both of which are key priorities in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific adopted by the ASEAN Leaders at their Summit in June.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To conclude, we should continue to take a sustainable and inclusive approach to smart city development, through the ASCN and dynamic partnerships between ASEAN Smart Cities and international partners, including the G20.  This would be yet another important contribution to Thailand’s ASEAN Chairmanship theme of “Advancing Partnership for Sustainability”.  The end goal remains the same, and that is the promotion of sustainability in all dimensions within  ASEAN, leading to enduring peace and prosperity in our region and for our people.

May I end by thanking our partners and hosts, the Ministry of Digital Economy and Society, Ministry of Transportation, and Ministry of Energy of Thailand for organizing this Conference and Exhibition, which will surely help to generate momentum for the ASCN to reach even greater heights in only its second year.

I wish all participants fruitful discussions full of concrete, practical ideas leading to beneficial outcomes on the ground for the people of our region.

Thank you.

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FM’s Opening Remarks for ASCN Conference and Exhibition

  1. World Urbanization Prospects: The 2018 Revision, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, PopulationDivision, 2018.