We had the pleasure and honor of asking a few questions to Andrew Lim, WeGO‘s Senior Program Officer, The World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization, based in Seoul (Korea) and with operational offices in China, Russia, Turkey and Mexico.
Andrew Lim has recently become an honorary citizen of Seoul, this is due to his profound commitment to the city of Seoul.
WeGO has more than 150 members worldwide who work together to improve the quality of life through the dissemination of efficient public services and the promotion of the necessary skills.
Mr Andrew, you have a long experience on IT sector both in public and private sector, what are main and current focus in smart city matters in Korea on both sides ? Is there a smart nation programme or current development in Korea is more driven by each city according to its own list of needs?
As a practitioner of both the policy side and technical side of smart cities, I have been able to get hands-on as well as policy-making experience in implementing and promoting smart cities in Korea and beyond. Having said that, Korea is definitely at the forefront in smart city solutions and policies. Korea is considered one of the most advanced countries in terms of smart cities, ICT and e-Government, and it has laid the basic foundations, such as telecommunications (4G/5G) infrastructure to conduct a nation-wide program on smart cities. Just recently, with the help and advice from Smart City National Planners (such as one of our former Secretary Generals) designated two cities to help test smart city projects, namely Sejong and Busan. As Sejong has been deemed the administrative capital of Korea, smart city projects have accordingly been allocated, such as data management (AI, big data, machine learning, predictive analysis etc.) in Sejong to smart ports, startup ecosystem, smart water management in Busan. Of course, as Korea is at the forefront of smart city technologies, each city has also started to establish its own smart city divisions, in which the World Smart Sustainable Cities Organization (WeGO), my current workplace has closely collaborated with, from matchmaking, promoting their smart city initiatives to helping their smart city solution providers share their solutions.
Mr Andrew, you also have experience of supporting capacity building programmes in emerging countries, could you share with us one good experience and one bad experience from which we can learn ? I mean, which are main lessons learnt by some good and negative experience in those countries that you can share with us ?
I have personally been in charge of numerous capacity building programs at WeGO and throughout my career in and/or for emerging countries. Generally, capacity building programs are effective and of utmost importance as it provides an avenue for smart city practitioners and public servants to learn about smart city best practices and trends. The goal is to learn from these best practices and trends to help improve and/or devise own smart city solutions and policies in their own respective countries/cities. However, one of the biggest challenges in capacity building is the follow-up. Although through follow-up surveys and from what the participants actually say during the event, we can get a gauge of the effectiveness of the capacity building programs, but it is difficult to reliably measure how effective the training was. It is great that the trainee has learned about some effective measures of tax/revenue generation for better public services, but implementing/putting that into practice back in their respective organization is another matter. Also, the organizers, due to their time and resource constraints, cannot always follow-up to see whether the training was actually being used. Also, more often than not, public servants often rotate (jobs, departments etc.), so following up is also challenging.
Mr Andrew, what is your current activity, which are your main interests and which topics you see close to the focus of our smart city association?
Currently, as the head of corporate partnerships at WeGO, one of my focus areas is to assist companies in implementing smart city solutions needed by member cities effectively. Of course, I also conduct other types of activities from organizing conferences, securing funding from MDBs such as the African Development Bank to implement actual solutions, to conducting international relations-related work to provide consultation and matchmaking for cities, organizations, institutions and smart city solution providers. As smart city encompasses a wide range of fields, I feel that my holistic background and approach, from my technical ICT background, international relations expertise, people-skills to vast array of network truly fits in bringing Smart Sustainable Cities for All! As for close focus with the smart city association, one of the key starting points would be knowledge-sharing, from publishing materials, capacity building to collaborative opportunities. We also see great value in the network that the smart city association has established!
Can you share with us your opinion about which are most dynamic and successful cities in Far East or Middle East according to your experience ?
As you may already know, one of the most dynamic and successful cities in terms of smart cities is Dubai, with their “Smart Dubai” program. As an international relations expert, the general sense that Dubai or UAE provides is a great lesson to the middle east, especially within the Gulf Region. UAE as a nation (especially back when the Emirates were separate) that started off with nothing more than just oil. Although oil is considered a great resource, IR theory stipulates that oil or other natural resources of great value comes with the risk of the “resource curse or paradox plenty.” Yet UAE I feel is one of the exemplary cases in diversifying their portfolio away from oil to other emerging fields, from renewable energy (solar) to modern finances. Oil accounted for perhaps around 70% of its GDP in the 80’s, and today it represents roughly 20%. It has also diversified its portfolio into providing world-class smart city services, from utilizing blockchain to provide healthcare records to incorporating AI to maximize data-based government decisions. It is one of the world’s financial capitals today! In terms of the Far East, Yakutia (Yakutsk) is a trending city, with its “unique” Mayor, Sardana V. Avksentieva paving the way to resolve urban challenges that Yakutsk (and Far East) faces, such as the melting of permafrost and thus infrastructure damage (roads, buildings etc.). With a limited budget of only around $250 million annually, she is exploring ways in utilizing smart city technology to resolve or mitigate urban challenges. One is utilizing an APP to allow citizens to make real-time “reports” on infrastructure, such as roads damaged from melting permafrost. This not only allows the government to provide better services, but also allows the government to utilize this “big data” to provide even better services in the future (ex. predictive analysis etc.). And yes, Yakutsk is a member of WeGO!