WeGO is an organization that is focused on sustainable urban development through e-government, ICT and smart cities. Can you highlight some of the major projects WeGO has been involved in over the last 12 months?

This year, WeGO held our 4th General Assembly in Russia. The General Assembly is held every three years and is the top decision-making body of WeGO. It brings together mayors, chief information officers and high-level public officials from all WeGO member cities as well as thought leaders and partners from all over the world and serves as an important international platform for cities to become smart sustainable cities, to share knowledge and to forge new partnerships. The 4th WeGO General Assembly was a great success, gathering over 400 urban leaders from 112 cities and local governments.

Two additional WeGO regional offices were approved for launch at the General Assembly, the first in Latin America and second in the Mediterranean region. They will join WeGO's existing Asia regional office in China and Europe regional office in Russia. In late October, we had the official Mediterranean regional office opening ceremony in Beyoğlu, Istanbul; and Mexico City is currently preparing the official launch of the Latin America regional office.

WeGO has been providing annual smart sustainable city consultation services through feasibility study programs for our members along with pilot deployment of the solution as one of the final outputs. This complimentary technical assistance program is designed to help members assess their current smart sustainable city status and draw realistic and concrete strategies for funding full-implementation projects. This year, the city of La Marsa in Tunisia was selected as the beneficiary city and we are currently conducting a feasibility study on implementing a smart waste management system in La Marsa.

WeGO co-organized many international conferences including the Asia-Pacific Regional Forum on Smart Cities and e-Government in Bangkok, Thailand, with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU); and the, Smart ABC (AI, Banking, Cities) Program at ITU Telecom World 2017 in Busan, South Korea, among many other forums and conferences.

WeGO regularly conducts capacity building programs like the Joint NIA (National Information Society Agency) WeGO-World Bank Workshop for Smart Sustainable Cities and e-Government; Seoul e-Government Training Program; and Chengdu WeGO Asia Regional Office Smart City & e-Government Training Program. These training programs offer WeGO members rich learning opportunities to promote the use of information technologies in public administration and foster collaboration among cities.

In 2016, WeGO conducted a feasibility study on smart street and traffic lighting that focused on IoT and big data in the Malaysian city of Seberang Perai. Can you share with us some of the key findings from that report?
To share knowledge and experience in smart sustainable city development, WeGO provides complimentary consulting services to member cities through annual feasibility study (FS) programs. Seberang Perai, Malaysia was selected as the beneficiary city of the 2016 FS project.

As part of the FS final outputs, a pilot project consisting of LED smart lamps, and traffic light distribution boxes were installed with a smart controller and real-time web monitoring system. The site of the pilot project was the main street in front of Seberang Perai City Hall and the system was operated for six months.

The successful pilot system showed the possibility of a fully implemented system in the city and proved that Seberang Perai is technically feasible for a smart traffic light management system. In addition to the technical feasibility, economic feasibility is projected to be highly positive. For example, by replacing sodium lamps with LEDs for galvanized street light poles in Seberang Perai, approximately 64% of electricity cost (3,228,227 MYR = 717,798 USD) can be saved. In addition to electricity saving and GHG emissions reduction, utilizing a smart light monitoring system would also have cost saving benefits. The real-time monitoring system will cut human resource-related cost by 60% to 70% by reducing patrolling from three times to once a week.

Internet of things is recognized by many as our greatest opportunity, and is a key component of the development of smart cities. However, it is also seen as a huge weakness with the amount of connected devices expected to rise exponentially. In your opinion, what needs to be implemented in order to curb the security issues surrounding the integration of IoT in smart cities?
With recent, high profile data breaches in the private sector dominating the news, this is a question that holds just as much relevance, if not more, for the public sector, including cities. Citizen trust and social capital are key aspects to the success of a smart city, and citizens can already be skeptical of granting access to their private data to the government. So, such a security weakness could very quickly erode confidence in smart city projects.

The sheer number of connected devices and the benefits they present are the focal point of many smart city discussions, as it deserves to be, but not enough focus is being paid to the security as each of these devices represents a backdoor into the network.

In some cases, these devices are incredibly vulnerable, not through any particular skill of hackers, but through simple and easily preventable negligence. Cities are often under stricter budget limitations than their private sector counterparts and maintenance can be neglected. Default passwords may be used, and firmware updates are not made on schedule, exposing the devices to vulnerability. The good news is that with proper monitoring and simple precautions these issues can be addressed.

My recommendation as a starting point is secure sufficient human resources to track all of the devices and have standardized protocols in place across departments to ensure that updates are made on schedule. While having in-house staff to perform security protocol can be expensive, it is far less costly than a security breach would be. If possible, use of a cloud access security broker to safeguard between connected devices and the cloud network can also be important. Finally, while it is not a strong point for many governments, agility and adaptability are key for security, and policies should consistently be re-evaluated and adjusted as trends evolve.

Blockchain technology, AI and internet of things are seen as the predominant strategic tech trends that will drive digital transformation in 2018. However, do you think there are other strategic trends that will accelerate digital transformation?
While we are already beginning to see some usage cases of blockchain and AI on a preliminary basis in some cities, I believe that wide-scale adoption is still out of reach for the typical city in the very near future. These are still relatively nascent technologies and governments are generally not first adopters. A more immediate strategic trend which I believe will continue to accelerate digital transformation in cities in the next year is data analytics.

Industry expert, Don Tapscott, compares data to oil in that it has quickly become one of the most valuable resources of the modern economy. As the private sector continues to figure out how to monetize big data, many of the smart city programs will have their success depend on the effective analysis of the data that their city infrastructure generates. Everything from disaster preparedness to parking and transportation management can benefit from a well-developed analytics strategy. Smart infrastructure, smart transportation, smart energy and utility management, the sharing economy and many other trends are already transforming cities on the strength of data analysis.

Furthermore, in a city in which the public and private sectors have a mutually advantageous relationship, open data can be used by the private sector to develop solutions which benefit the public sector, presenting added value without great additional cost to the city government. In this way, data analytics can occur organically and supplement the work already being done by city government. Finally, the lessons learnt from current data analysis such as separating and cleaning the most worthwhile data and identifying critical areas will be crucial in laying the groundwork for the adoption of future technologies in cities such as artificial intelligence.

Can you outline to us what the main objectives and goals are for WeGO in 2018?

[WeGO action-oriented working group clusters for cities, companies, and experts] 
An exciting program coming up in 2018 for WeGO members will be the launch of our Thematic Clusters. WeGO plans to partner with the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC), sponsored by the US National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), in order to have WeGO's clusters join the already successful GCTC action clusters and superclusters. WeGO will form action-oriented clusters organized around various smart sustainable city themes with our member cities and private sector companies to help share replicable smart city best practices worldwide, and to pursue new smart sustainable city projects.

[UN Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities] 
Another exciting initiative our member cities will participate in is the United Nations Key Performance Indicators for Smart Sustainable Cities (UN KPIs for SSC). The KPIs were an output of the United for Smart Sustainable Cities (U4SSC) initiative led by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU). WeGO was happy to participate in the U4SSC and will now play a role in promoting the KPIs to our member cities around the world, especially focused on Asia where many of our members are concentrated. The KPIs are divided into three dimensions: (1) Economy, (2) Environment and (3) Society and Culture. These KPIs serve as a tool to measure a city’s smartness, sustainability and its progress on Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) targets. Any WeGO member city interested in tracking their progress against the UN KPIs will be able to do it at no cost.

[Build greater worldwide partnerships and growth of WeGO membership base] 
WeGO has grown quickly in the past three years, gaining fifty (50) new members with a current total member count of 130. Our hope is to continue to have more cities join us and to form more partnerships with international organizations that share our vision of Smart Sustainable Cities for All. Most recently, WeGO signed a memorandum of understanding with OGP (Open Government Partnership) and also with FMDV (Global Fund for Cities Development). We plan to work with both organizations to further our mission and to continue to look for more partners that can work with our city members to facilitate their journeys to becoming smart sustainable cities worldwide. With the quick growth of our membership base, WeGO's array of programs has also been expanding, including numerous capacity building training programs and workshops along with our online smart sustainable city tools.

Lastly, we will hold our annual Executive Committee Meeting in Quezon City, Philippines, alongside the Philippine Smart City Summit 2018. We look forward to inviting many cities and partners from around the world to join us for this event happening on October 17-19, 2018.