October 2, 2023

Transforming a city, town, or even a barangay into a smart community, need not be grandiose, officials of the Department of Science and Technology clarified last week.

In the recently concluded regional scientific meeting for Luzon, DOST Sec. Renato Solidum said many local government units in the country remain hesitant in adopting smart technologies thinking this will entail a huge budget.

Contrary to this perception, Solidum said being smart does not always require a huge budget, adding LGUs can start small by identifying which area they want to make smart like traffic management, land use and zoning, disaster response and mitigation, and agriculture.

“It depends on the needs and aspirations of the community,” Solidum said.

DOST Usec. for Regional Operations Sancho Maborrang added LGUs should first identify the technical needs of the community before embarking on a grand plan.

“Becoming a smart community need not be ambitious,” Maborrang said.

Both officials said LGUs can also pilot a community they can transform into a smart barangay then gradually expand once they have achieved their target. 

“If we set a big indicator, it will be very difficult to achieve,” Solidum said, adding if budget is an issue, LGUs can also partner with the private sector.

Through the DOST’s Smart City Initiatives, the agency is planning on transforming at least one LGU in the 81 provinces in the Philippines into a smart community.

Currently, only Metro Manila, Metro Clark, Metro Cebu, and Metro Davao are considered smart cities in the Philippines.

LGUs that have initiated steps to become smart communities are, Malabon City, Mandaue City, San Fernando City, Pampanga, Tagum City, Cauayan City, and Tuguegarao City.

Their smart initiatives include 4G mobile connectivity, QR technology in contact tracing, computerization of revenue-generating departments, purok database system, low-carbon city, telemetry for flood monitoring, fiber optic cabling, traffic signalization and no-contact apprehension system, use of Euro-4 compliant heavy equipment and machinery, hybrid electric road train, centralized WiFi in the barangays, household profiling using the QR code, provision of kiosks for bills payment, aquaponics, and teleconsultation, among others.  

Solidum added being a smart community does not necessarily mean having Internet connectivity.

He said being smart means making use of information-technology to increase the operational efficiency of governments, communities, and homes and does not necessarily require Internet connection.

Transforming into smart communities is viewed by urban planners as one of the solutions to address problems on urbanization.

In a research released in 2022, the think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies said the Philippines is facing many challenges in its effort to transform smart communities.

Challenges include the lack of infrastructure for ICT, lack of budget for the upgrading of technology, digital divide, and distrust in data collection and storage.

The PIDS recommended for the DOST and the departments of Information and Communications Technology and the Interior and Local Government to assist LGUs in planning smart community initiatives. – Rimaliza A. Opiña