The U.S.-ASEAN Smart Cities Partnership (USASCP) is a Department of State initiative launched in 2018 and aimed at promoting sustainable, resilient, and inclusive solutions to advance urban quality of life in Southeast Asian cities. With 20 projects across the region, the USASCP addresses urban challenges through knowledge-sharing and capacity building, systems modelling and data collection, research and innovation, and private sector engagement. The USASCP works in partnership with numerous U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Transportation, Department of Commerce, National Science Foundation, and the Center for Disease Control, as well as university and private sector partners. The following programs help advance smart sustainable cities throughout the ASEAN region:
Business Innovation Fund: The USASCP’s Smart Cities Business Innovation Fund (BIF) finances net zero and low carbon solutions to urban challenges on the sub-national level. Capitalized at $1 million, BIF funded six urban solutions providing up to $300,000 per solution. In its inaugural call for proposals, BIF received 72 proposals totaling $14 million in demand, demonstrating a clear need for sub-national financing. Winning proposals ranged from bio-seaweed packaging to climate and hydrologic monitoring innovations to solar panel recycling.
Water Security: Water Smart Engagements (WiSE) is a joint effort from the Department of State and the U.S. Water Partnership. The program pairs ASEAN and U.S. cities to strengthen water security in Southeast Asia through the exchange of knowledge, industry practices, and private sector engagement with water utilities and/or management districts. It delivers essential urban water services, including improved access to clean drinking and proper wastewater treatment. Additionally, this program addresses issues of non-revenue water, water reuse, stormwater management, and climate resiliency. The WiSE City Pairings include:
- Phuket, Thailand, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and San Francisco, California
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Washington, D.C.
- Vientiane, Laos, and Hillsboro, Oregon
- Cebu, Philippines, and Miami, Florida
Sustainable Transport: The Department of Transportation (DOT) employs a city pairing model to promote policy, planning, and technology to advance smart mobility solutions. It offered a series of regional webinars in 2020 and 2021 focused on U.S. and ASEAN case studies and highlighted the importance of integrated urban planning for multi-model transport and strategic use of technology when working to improve transportation operations. The program includes several local ASEAN university partnerships as well as the following city partnerships:
- Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and Boston, Massachusetts
- Jakarta, Indonesia, and Los Angeles, California
- Hanoi, Vietnam, and Dallas, Texas
- Phuket, Thailand, and Las Vegas, Nevada
- Johor Bahru, Malaysia, and Portland, Oregon
Research and Innovation: USASCP partners with the National Science Foundation (NSF) to provide research grants to U.S. and ASEAN university partnerships to support a range of technological and socio-economic innovations across urban sectors. NSF-led projects include renewable energy-generating bike lanes (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia); assessing the socio-economic impacts of the digital/informal economy (Jakarta, Indonesia); biophysical and socio-economic data collection for decision-making in smart garden alleys (Makassar, Indonesia); and artificial intelligence for crowd and traffic analysis, congestion mitigation, and urban flooding (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam).
Health in Cities: USASCP is working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and U.S. embassies and consulates in the region to increase resiliency of local health care infrastructure as part of the U.S.-ASEAN Health Futures initiative. Through USASCP, First Womentech Asia received a $100,000 grant to successfully digitize 100,000 medical records in Phnom Penh, Battambang, and Siem Reap. First Womentech Asia trained over 800 health professionals in 20 clinics and hospitals. A separate health program with CDC and UK partners is collecting blood pressure and atrial fibrillation data and correlating it with air pollution (PM2.5/10) records to identify urban risk areas across ASEAN to help strengthen local health services.
Integrated Urban Services (IUS): In cooperation with the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), USASCP works with Iskandar, Malaysia and Cagayan de Oro, Philippines to develop business plans and schematics for integrated water, energy and food systems to improve resource efficiencies, strengthen food security and advance climate resiliency. NREL will share lessons learned with ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) and other ASEAN stakeholders on the impact of climate modeling on circularity, sustainability, and resiliency of systems integration.
Energy Systems Modelling and Cybersecurity: USASCP, in collaboration with the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Labs, plans to promote renewable energy integration within existing power grids and apply socio-economic modelling to understand demand for urban services in Bangkok, Thailand and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Human and system resources will be strengthened to mitigate cybersecurity risks to the energy grid.