The UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), in partnership with Seedstars, has launched an open call to startups across Asia to take part in the Smart Cities

The project invites entrepreneurs with a regional focus on either Sihanoukville in Cambodia, Chiangmai in Thailand or Surabaya in Indonesia, to collaborate with municipal governments to scale up sustainable smart city solutions.

“Sihanoukville was selected for the SCIL programme because of its rapid growth and potential to become a major economic hub in Cambodia,” said Anurag Maloo, regional director for Asia-Pacific and vice-president of global partnerships at Seedstars, the organisation working with UNESCAP.

Seedstars is an investment group that works in the area of financing entrepreneurs in the developing world and building their capacity to succeed with new and innovative ideas.

Maloo said Sihanoukville’s expanding tourism industry and location as Cambodia’s primary seaport make it an ideal location to develop smart city solutions.

“We aim to collaborate with the local government and entrepreneurs to work on the following smart city priorities: Smart waste management, smart tourism and smart public transportation management,” he said.

The SCIL programme aligns with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and focuses on enhancing mobility infrastructure, improving natural environments, advancing industry and social development, improving health and well-being, and more, according to Maloo.

“Governments are increasingly turning to technology to manage and monitor their cities and support urban efficiencies”, according to a joint press release from UNESCAP and Seedstars.

Cities in the region are growing rapidly, with the population in Southeast-Asia expected to reach 1.1 billion people in the next few years, said the release. By 2030 more than half of that population will live in cities.

Maloo says that Seedstars is excited to work with local entrepreneurs to co-create innovative solutions that can positively impact communities and shape the future of urban living.

The reason that Sihanoukville was chosen for the SCIL programme was due to its potential for rapid growth and development, while Phnom Penh, Battambang and Siem Reap have all been selected to take part in ASEAN’s Smart Cities Network programme.

Seedstars received interest from the municipal government of Sihanoukville in developing it into a smart city, Maloo says, and now they have a mutual agreement to work together towards achieving this goal, because as the city continues to grow and attract more people it will become increasingly important to improve its infrastructure and developing it as a smart city will help achieve this objective.

Lim Sangva, founder of ArrowDot – an automation company working on industrial control systems since 2012 – is interested in the smart city programme and the entrepreneurial opportunities Seedstar is bringing to the table.

“I need some time to study details about the project and try to understand the criteria and whether I can develop a project to submit an application,” Sangva told The Post.

Anurag Maloo, head of partnerships at Seedstars. SEEDSTARS

Local startups and entrepreneurs, Maloo said, understand the local contexts and needs best and with the right resources and opportunities they can tackle city-level issues effectively, so local startups and entrepreneurs are highly encouraged to apply for the SCIL programme.

“By working with them, we can leverage their creativity and knowledge to co-create customized smart city solutions that can be readily deployed. Our goal is to foster collaboration between governments and the private sector while providing startups with the resources and support they need to scale their businesses and create a positive impact on their communities,” Maloo said. “Another goal is to discover the most innovative local startups and entrepreneurs with solutions that have the potential to drive positive change in our partner cities.”

After the evaluation process, Maloo says, the best startup will be announced as winner that has a project that most aligns with the programme criteria.

“We see great potential for the three partner cities to become Smart Cities through sustainable solutions. Many Asian cities, such as Singapore, Tokyo, Seoul, and Taipei, have already become successful smart cities by leveraging technology and innovation,” said Maloo.

When Sihanoukville becomes a smart city, he said, it will become more sustainable, livable, and efficient. With the successful implementation of smart city solutions, it aims to improve essential services, enhance urban efficiency, and create a better quality of life for residents.

Maloo said that with improved digital infrastructure and applications, citizens will have better access to information, and businesses will be better equipped to provide services to customers.

“While the project is still in its early stages, we believe that with the right solutions and partnerships, Sihanoukville has the potential to become a model smart city for the ASEAN region,” he said.

Preah Sihanouk provincial deputy governor Long Dimanche said that it’s time for Sihanoukville to become a smart city, but this demands new infrastructure, including physical infrastructure like roads, public transportation, sewage systems, internet accessibility and human resources.

“We are in early stages of preparation and development, so we need more time strengthen our people while implementing the smart city plans,” Dimanche told The Post.

He said that the Ministry of Environment and provincial authorities are working together to implement a garbage collecting mobile app that collects data from households, factories, hotels and restaurants and factors in things like population and zoning to come up with better collection services.

The provincial authority also plans to use smart parking at Phsar Leu and right now the officials are working with partners and seeking investors.

“Before going to the market, people can book parking spaces through an app if they don’t want to have to take a chance on finding a place to park. But smart parking is not enough since we should have smart public transportation. We have been studying and learning from other countries and figuring out how to transform Cambodia’s urban environment,” Dimanche said.

Maloo said the SCIL programme will produce innovative and impactful solutions to some of the most pressing challenges facing cities in the region.

“I am excited to see the ideas that the startups bring forward and look forward to working closely with them to bring their solutions to life,” he said, adding that Seedstars is passionate about driving positive impact in emerging markets through entrepreneurship.

He encourages all eligible startups to apply and take advantage of this “unique opportunity to drive change in their communities”. He added that together they can make a meaningful difference and build a brighter future for all.

The deadline for entries is April 3. Local startups and entrepreneurs can apply online