Millennials, and especially Gen Z, are more inclined to embrace the notion of sharing as opposed to ownership and have greater conscientiousness and sympathy with the green agenda. (Photo courtesy of Jason Pomeroy)

Transforming Cities Through Mobility, Innovation and Culture 

BY : JASON POMEROY

JULY 29, 2019

It should come as little surprise that cities, their people and places would become, and continue to be, centers of not just trade and commerce but also culture and innovation.

Places such as Jakarta are going through a remarkable rejuvenation by riding the wave of a tropical belt economic expansion. From a Dutch colonial trading entrepôt to a high-density metropolis that is home to a youthful, tech-savvy population of nearly 11 million people, Jakarta has the ingredients for economic success.

But it needs to reflect on its evolution as a hub of exchange between people trading, celebrating, rallying and socially engaging if it is going to reap the benefits of a sustained spatial, economic and sociocultural growth.

The popular trend for people to mass migrate to cities in search of fame and fortune is a familiar dream for many a citizen preparing for the big city, and the sheer magnitude brings about pertinent questions on how the existing infrastructure can cater to such an expansion, what new innovations can be employed to enhance people's lives as well as the economy, and how cultural identity can be preserved and celebrated in the wake of globalization.

Mobility

The automobile was a remarkable disruptor of the way we conceived, planned and eventually moved through cities and saw many a road widened to accommodate the gas guzzlers; and many a market square turned into parking lots for these symbols of progress and status.

Whilst public transportation by train, bus, mass rapid transportation, light rail or even boat has sought to cater to the masses as a means of heightened mobility between the suburbs and city centers – Amsterdam being a good example – the automobile has remained a convenience that many are not willing to give up. They have caused inextricable damage to our cities with traffic congestion and our natural habitats through pollution.

However, times are changing amid climate change and the digital economy. Millennials, and especially Gen Z, born in an age when information, technology and social media are comfort blankets for their daily survival, are more inclined to embrace the notion of sharing as opposed to ownership and they have greater conscientiousness and sympathy with the green agenda.

The use of public transportation, electric vehicles and ride-sharing services are in; car ownership is out. As the next generation turns to these alternative and greener forms of public transportation and mobility, we may be able to keep mobility suffocation of major cities such as Jakarta at bay.

At BSD City, a privately developed planned community in South Tangerang, Banten, big data is already used to measure and monitor vehicular traffic – from digital sensors maintaining flow to a multimodal green transportation system that was engrained in the city's planning from day one. Society deserves freedom of movement alongside the freedom of self-expression. The ability to have seamless mobility from train to electric bus, to e-bike or e-scooter, and to pedestrian sidewalk not only enhances daily productivity by saving time and energy, but also reduces congestion and contributes to greening the urban habitat.

Innovation

Innovation refers to the action or process of change, alteration, or revolution; a new method of idea creation or product that may bring about change. Just like the automobile, the autonomous car is such an innovation that will further herald change in our urban infrastructure like it is four-wheeled predecessor. But the digital era has also yielded changes that are not immediately visible, but which are in society's ability to push the boundaries of technology. 

Coding and open-source academies, such as Makeblock in Shenzhen, China, have the potential to nurture the digital economic talent of the future, as are hackathons, 3-D fabrication labs and virtual reality studios that allow for knowledge sharing, modeling, testing and real-time simulations to take place before city-wide implementation.

They can also be the source of unbridled entrepreneurialism, such as in Bandung, West Java, where the 1,000 Digital Startup Program was a local initiative by Ridwan Kamil, the city's former mayor. The forum regularly sees many techpreneurs paired with business people at the Bandung Institute of Technology to help shape and grow businesses that can also improve the quality of life in the city. 

Ensuring that there are spaces and places that can facilitate events and digital learning programs are essential in bringing together likeminded individuals to collaborate and hopefully spark new ideas and innovations to challenge the status quo.

As people come together to share their ideas and experiences to generate solutions, those innovations can form the next wave of digital-based companies. Their technologies may be of immediate benefit to the productivity of the city and thus local economy or could be exported overseas and thus help contribute to the national economy. 

Cultural

Culture reflects the customs and achievements of a nation, people, or social group. It refers to not only the arts, but also other manifestations of human intellectual achievement regarded collectively. But due to globalization and technological advancement in a world where disruption has become the norm, cultural traditions and time-tested rituals run the risk of being overtaken by global consumer brands. 

Indonesia has a very diverse landscape. While it has two dominant ethnic cultures – Javanese and Sundanese – it has various other ethnic groups equally proud of their cultures. While the youths of Indonesia are tech-savvy and receptive to innovation and change, they are also proud of their heritage. The conjoining of the two can therefore lead to exciting and vibrant places that may bear the essence of past cultures but acknowledge the existence, growth – and shock – of the new.

At BSD City, we have been privileged to influence how mobility, innovation and culture have shaped this smart city. Sheltered, pedestrian-friendly green open spaces provide the basis of not only a car-lite environment that facilitates mobility for people to live, work and play with relative ease, but also community engagement and social interaction.

Locally inspired creative forums, art events and film festivals further support a culture of creativity and innovation in a young, inspired, tech-savvy community. It is with the hope that, like bees to honey, more creatives will continue to cross-pollinate ideas and shape BSD City to live up to its moniker as the innovative and cultured "Silicon Valley of Indonesia" that is on the move to inspire more cities to follow suit.

Jason Pomeroy is the founder of Pomeroy Studio, an evidence-based interdisciplinary sustainable design firm, and sustainable education provider Pomeroy Academy. He also hosts an architecture television series aired throughout Asia and the Middle East.

SHARE