Asian cities risk stumbling ‘zombie-like’ towards digital dystopia

PENANG – As Asian cities turn to technologies such as facial recognition and artificial intelligence to deliver social welfare and public services, urban experts on Thursday urged authorities to address privacy concerns and protect the vulnerable.

From India to Indonesia, governments across the region are backing hundreds of Smart Cities that use technology and data to improve waste management and energy conservation, tackle traffic congestion and mitigate risks linked to climate change.

“Frontier technologies such as AI hold promise to reimagine how the public sector can better serve sustainable development needs,” UN Under-Secretary-General Armida Salsiah Alisjahbana said at an urban conference in Penang.

“Fast-evolving technologies have the potential to transform the traditional way of doing things across all government functions and domains,” she said, adding that public-private partnerships will be key.

Worldwide, the rise of cloud-computing and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies have led to data-gathering streetlights in China, autonomous buses in Singapore and facial recognition systems in Indian airports.

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