Big data analysis enables urban planners to optimize the infrastructure through which the Chinese government can better cope with rapid urbanization, according to Riz Khaliq, director of marketing and communications at IBM.
Khaliq was among a panel of experts discussing how to drive sustainable urbanization in Asia at the Center for Strategic International Studies in Washington on Wednesday.
"Today, there are about 200 devices on average connected to each individual directly or indirectly linked to computers and the Internet," Khaliq said. "The data from them can trace our living patterns. So the infrastructure could be designed based on the preferable living patterns of people in different local communities."
As an example, Khaliq mentioned Beijing, which has been suffering from environmental pollution and traffic congestion because of its over expansion. Data collected from social media and stores can be used to design and create an efficient public transportation system and energy plan, he said.
"Big data analysis can avoid tedious negotiations between the state and the people," he said. "Local communities would no longer be dictated to by the government. They be-come not the problem but part of the solution in the process of urbanization."
Ian Laski, general manager of Asia-Pacific infrastructure at Bechtel, the largest construction and civil engineering company in the U.S., said: "It is very important to have the connection between the state and the people. The decision makers should cater to the local communities to meet their needs. That's where the demand really lies. In that way, we will face fewer practical difficulties and more efficient planning for a city."
"People-oriented planning is key to the success of urbanization, especially for developing countries like China and India," said Kamran Khan, a vice-president at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government foreign aid agency.
Khan said that cities needed to be more competitive yet livable and that the two factors were actually interdependent. The competitiveness of a city is determined by how much talent it is able to hold on to. Aside from job opportunities, that takes convenient public transportation and a clean environment, Khan said.
Samuel Tumiwa, deputy director of the North American office of the Asian Development Bank, pointed out that the key feature of urbanization in Asia was its rapid pace, which requires an optimal and well-tailored solution within a short period of time. It is challenging, but countries like China needed to learn how to cope with the tempo.