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In Jakarta suburb, Mitsubishi and Temasek unit plan smart city

High-tech community includes homes, shopping and medical services in 1 sq km

The Indonesian smart city will be built in Bumi Serpong Damai, about 25 km southwest of Jakarta. (Photo courtesy of Bumi Serpong Damai)

TOKYO -- Japanese trading house Mitsubishi Corp. will partner with a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore's state-backed investor Temasek Holdings to build a high-tech community near Indonesia's capital, Nikkei has learned.

The pair have formed a joint venture for the project, which will span about 1 sq. km in Bumi Serpong Damai, a planned city about 25 km southwest of Jakarta. Local developer Sinar Mas Land will participate as well.

The move marks Mitsubishi's first full-fledged smart city project and comes as Southeast Asia embraces the integration of technology into urban development.

The smart city will include homes, shopping centers and medical facilities, with the goal of housing 40,000 to 60,000 permanent residents.

The Mitsubishi-Temasek project will feature charging stations and dedicated roads for electric vehicles, along with mobility and ride-sharing services. An urban operating system will collect information on consumer preferences and let residents make electronic payments and medical appointments via smartphone. The system also will manage major city functions including security and maintenance of electricity, water and wireless services.

Proposals for smart cities, which use information technology to improve efficiency and convenience for residents, are gaining momentum in Southeast Asia as a potential solution to overcrowding, environmental degradation, disaster risk and other ailments of existing metropolises.

Jakarta was named as one of 26 pilot cities for the ASEAN Smart Cities Network, or ASCN, a platform for "smart and sustainable urban development" established by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in 2018.

ASEAN foreign ministers, in a communique issued Thursday after their regional meeting, said they "underscored the potential of the [network] to create opportunities for the development of technological and innovative solutions." They were "pleased with the continued efforts by the ASCN Cities to implement their respective Smart City Action Plans."

The coronavirus pandemic has forced cities across the world to rethink patterns of work and home life, with telecommuting catching on as never before. Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, whose designs include Japan's New National Stadium, said the virus has revealed the weaknesses of outdated urban concepts.

"Cramming people into steel boxes like skyscrapers and factories was an efficient way to work in the early days of industrial capitalism," Kuma told Nikkei in a recent interview.

"This didn't suit the new ways of working created by IT, but the old urban model lived on as a shell devoid of meaning," Kuma added. "The coronavirus has opened our eyes."

Asian emerging-economies see a chance to skip straight to the digital age by building networked communities.

Mitsubishi has worked on luxury condominiums and residential properties for smart cities in Southeast Asia. In Indonesia, it will take part in urban management for the first time. The trading house will conduct field tests of next-generation mobility services and an urban operating system, accruing know-how for future projects in Japan or elsewhere in Asia.

Mitsubishi is among those collaborating on one of Japan's most prominent project smart city projects, in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Aizuwakamatsu, where technology lets residents pay medical bills via QR codes, track snowplows in real time and farm more efficiently.

Toyota Motor and Nippon Telegraph & Telephone, also known as NTT, have joined hands on a smart city to be built at a former Toyota plant site in Shizuoka Prefecture.

China has more than 100 government-led smart cities in the works -- involving companies such as tech leaders Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent Holdings and Baidu -- and the country has proposed international standards for the field.

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