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How to Build Smart Cities - Minimum Viable City (MVC)

Illustration for article titled How to Build Smart Cities - Minimum Viable City (MVC)

Think “Lean Methodology” - Build, Measure and Learn. I think that’s how we should build Smart Cities. We can no longer take the risks of building projects fast and become “white elephants” which Wikipedia defined as:

A white elephant is a possession which its owner cannot dispose of and whose cost, particularly that of maintenance, is out of proportion to its usefulness.


Most of the times, Smart Cities deployment failed even though we planned well but failed in execution. Failed in getting the citizens to use the facilities. Failed in maintaining and sustaining the business model.

The maturity of acceptance of city dwellers is also an essential element. I don’t think we can just replicate the success of one Smart City in one country to another country without proper understanding the priorities of the citizens due to the ethnicity and maturity of the city inhabitants.


No doubt, we need the masterplan for Smart Cities. A blueprint that lay the framework and the timeframe which is essential in measuring the success of any projects. But then, blueprints can be useless if there is no element of funding and the right business models in place. Most Smart Cities projects are delayed or cancelled due to lack of financing from both parties (government and private entities).

To avoid such issues, let’s use the “lean methodology” in developing Smart Cities. The key element is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or in this case, we might call it “Minimum Viable City.” Here’re the steps:

  1. Develop a hypothesis of by getting citizens inputs. Provide the citizen with tools that allow them to engage with the government or city authorities.
  2. Collect the data and analyse the citizens priorities
  3. Build the “Minimum Viable City” Smart Applications
  4. Measure the impact and usefulness
  5. Learn from the citizens whether their pain points are adequately addressed. Iterate the process again.
  6. Scale up the deployment.

Think Big Start Small” - that’s how we should build our Smart Cities without putting so many resources. But to implement this - we need funding from the Government. In Malaysia, I would suggest MCMC, MDEC, MIGHT or Cyberview to allocate some funds to create many Proof-of-Concept (PoC) projects in various cities. That’s one of the ways to spur the local innovation within the country.

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