By Quoc Hung – Translated by Kim Khanh
Colombo port city development project
Prof. Dr. Tran Ngoc Tho, Member, National Financial & Monetary Policy Advisory Council, University of Economics, Ho Chi Minh City
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The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically changed lives and economies around the globe, requiring governments to seek new urban management technologies and solutions to address the current crisis as well as promote economic growth in the post-pandemic period. One of the initiatives taken is the implementation of smart cities. 
The pandemic has shown the importance of smart cities where digital technology will help facilitate remote work and conduct financial transactions, which is crucial to keeping urban economies running.
In Southeast Asia, smart cities will play an increasingly important role in generating economic growth and tackling complex urban challenges. According to a report by McKinsey Global Institute  , smart cities are expected to create 1.2 million – 1.5 million new jobs, prevent 260,000-270,000 kiltrons greenhouse gas emissions, and save somewhere between US$9-16 billion living expenses across ASEAN.
From the “Thailand 4.0″ plan to Singapore’s “Smart Nation” initiative, governments across Southeast Asia are driving the smart city transformation process. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently at the 36th ASEAN Summit said that ASEAN could use  the smart city network in the region to exchange ideas and experiences in utilising technology in the fight against COVID-19. For example, technology to enhance contact tracing.
The ASEAN Smart City Network (ASCN) was established on April 28, 2018, to encourage further cooperation among the 10 ASEAN member states to promote sustainable smart city development. The focus of ASCN’s work is on improving the lives of the ASEAN people through technology. As ASEAN Chair in 2020, Viet Nam will play a key role in leading ASCN and promoting smart city development across Southeast Asia. 
From the “Thailand 4.0″ plan to Singapore’s “Smart Nation” initiative, governments across Southeast Asia are driving the smart city transformation process. Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently at the 36th ASEAN Summit said that ASEAN could use  the smart city network in the region to exchange ideas and experiences in utilising technology in the fight against COVID-19 – for example, technology to enhance contact tracing.
To further encourage cooperation among the 10 ASEAN member states, the ASEAN Smart City Network (ASCN) was established on April 28, 2018 to promote sustainable smart city development. The focus of ASCN’s work is on improving the lives of the ASEAN people through technology. As ASEAN Chair in 2020, Viet Nam will play a key role in leading ASCN and promoting smart city development across Southeast Asia. 
Innovating through Hitachi’s technology
Integrating smart grids and sensors into urban infrastructure will allow governments to continuously collect data to operate cities efficiently, while cutting-edge software will enable rapid data analysis helping both government and business better understand the behaviour of people and consumers. With over 110 years of experience in the field of operational technology and 60 years of experience in the field of information technology, Hitachi has developed an extensive network of global partners focused on working together to develop technological solutions that address economic and social needs.
Over the past two years, Hitachi Vantara Vietnam has been involved in a number of smart city development consulting projects. Among them are large projects with a scale of over 1,000 hectares of complex structures, including residential areas, resort complexes, entertainment centres, and convention centres.
Hitachi smart city solutions aim to address concerns such as safety and public security with surveillance cameras and integrated access control systems, as well as optimise electricity usage through an intelligent energy management system. In addition to that, their Smart Traffic Control Platform Solution, developed with artificial intelligence technology and machine learning technology, helps to monitor and detect traffic violations. Beyond these smart city solutions, Hitachi has also developed solutions to enhance the consumer experience, such as providing access to a variety of services using an e-wallet application.
Viet Nam is emerging as one of Southeast Asia’s leading FinTech centres. At the end of 2019, Viet Nam had 154 FinTech companies and is considered a “FinTech model for Southeast Asia  “. This number increased by 285% compared to 2016, when there were only 40 FinTech companies in Viet Nam.
In Viet Nam, Hitachi has researched and developed an electronic payment system (E-Money) for retirees. Retirement beneficiaries can use these electronic cards to receive retirement payments at the post office. Plans are also underway to introduce non-cash payment systems into use in Vietnamese cities such as in gas stations or stores. 
Aside from non-cash payments, Hitachi has also initiated a pilot project with a local finance company to provide new financial services using digital technology such as artificial intelligence. By promoting the development of cashless payment systems and AI-based financial services, Hitachi aims to play a pioneering role in helping Viet Nam become a leading FinTech hub in the region. 
Hitachi Social is about making the world a better place
A successful smart city is one that ensures the happiness of its residents and improves their quality of life by creating opportunities for both personal and community growth that can enhance the social, economic and environmental values of citizens.
By focusing on social innovation and powering good, Hitachi aims to improve people’s lives through its technologies. Successful social innovation requires first and foremost a deep understanding of the problems people face in everyday life, followed by the development of technology solutions that can help solve problems.
In the ASEAN region, Hitachi has been combining the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, and data analysis to create “smart spaces” in cities. Through the introduction of cashless payment systems and FinTech services, smart urban spaces are expected to bring convenience and open business opportunities to organisations and businesses.
A smart city is more than just digital and urban infrastructure. Smart city technology and social innovations can contribute to the well-being of its people. An example of this is Hitachi’s efforts to use data analysis and people flow analysis to understand how people move around the city to ensure the optimal location of public facilities such as parks and childcare centres. This will improve the people’s quality of life and contribute to the greater well-being of the whole community.
 ABI Research, “COVID-19 to Accelerate Adoption of Technology-Enabled Smart Cities Resilience Approaches: Robotics, Digital Twins, and Autonomous Freight”, 05 May 2020 https://www.abiresearch.com/press/covid-19-accelerate-adoption-technology-enabled-smart-cities-resilience-approaches-robotics-digital-twins-and-autonomous-freight/
 McKinsey & Company, “ SMART CITIES INSOUTHEAST ASIA”, July 2018, https://www.mckinsey.com/~/media/mckinsey/industries/capital%20projects%20and%20infrastructure/our%20insights/smart%20cities%20in%20southeast%20asia/mgi-smart-cities-in-southeast-asia.pdf
 CNA. “PM Lee calls for greater ASEAN cooperation amid fight against COVID-19.” channelnewsasia, 26 Jun 2020, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/asean-summit-pm-lee-calls-for-greater-cooperation-covid-19-12874392. .
 Tony Cripps, “South-east Asia is getting ‘smart’ with urbanisation”, The Straits Times, 18 May 2018, https://www.straitstimes.com/opinion/south-east-asia-is-getting-smart-with-urbanisation
 Diesel.C. “Vietnam’s fintech industry growth is a model for Southeast Asia.” ASEAN TODAY , 29 December 2019, https://www.aseantoday.com/2019/12/vietnams-fintech-industry-growth-is-a-model-for-southeast-asia/ .
 Hitachi Ltd., Hitachi Signs a Memorandum of Understanding to Support Digitization of Financial Services Provided by Vietnam Post Jointly with SMBC. 29 March 2017 http://www.hitachi.com/New/cnews/month/2017/03/170329a.html
 Hitachi. “Hitachi and VietCredit Start a Demonstration Experiment to Provide New Financial Services Using AI.” Hitachi.com , 2020, http://www.hitachi.com/New/cnews/month/2020/02/200210.html.
These include An Phu Intersection in Thu Duc new city and the renovation of Tham Luong, Ben Cat and Nuoc Len canals, to be implemented from now to 2025, according to Phong.
During a reception for Chief Representative of UNICEF in Vietnam Rana Flowers in the locality on April 28, Hoan highlighted positive working results between the municipal authorities and UNICEF in implementing the “Child Friendly Cities Initiative” project, saying that this helps the city address priorities in terms of child protection, health, education, nutrition, and social care.
On the basis of results achieved in implementing the project, HCM City wishes to expand cooperation with UNICEF in Vietnam in specific programmes and projects, towards improving social services, supporting policy development, creating technical foundation and favourable conditions for child protection and care, and exercising children’s rights in line with the city’s sustainable development orientation in the future, he said.
For her part, Flowers affirmed that UNICEF is an organisation tasked with providing technical assistance for Vietnam to help the country perform governmental projects related to ensuring children’s rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
UNICEF in Vietnam is interested in and looks forward to understanding Ho Chi Minh City’s vision on issues related to children’s rights in order to complete a cooperation plan between UNICEF and Vietnam in the next five years, she said.
Flowers praised efforts and good performance made by the municipal authorities in implementing the “ Child Friendly Cities Initiative ” project, expressing a hope for strengthened cooperation and experience sharing between the UN agency and HCM City in solving child-related challenges in the process of building the city into a smart, modern and kid-friendly city in the future./.
HCM City’s Department of Health is continuing its focus on developing the application of state-of-the-art healthcare techniques at general and specialised hospitals that its counterparts in Asia have also been pursuing.
In recent years, many new and advanced medical techniques have helped the city’s health sector obtain significant achievements in treatment and prevention.
Sixteen-month-old conjoined twins who were separated by surgery at City Children’s Hospital in HCM City, with their parents and doctors.
One of the outstanding achievements was the surgery to separate 16-month-old conjoined twins in July last year by a team of nearly 100 doctors at City Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital 1 and 2, Cho Ray Hospital and others.
Success such as this has helped the city consolidate its healthcare brand both nationally and globally.
The country’s first surgery to separate conjoined twins was performed 33 years ago at Tu Du Hospital when it lacked modern equipment and had to receive assistance from Japan.
The surgery at that time set a new milestone for the city’s health sector. Dr Tran Dong A, who was the main surgeon to separate the conjoined twins at Tu Du Hospital in 1988, also took part in the surgery on the 16-month old conjoined twins last year.
Speaking at the 10th National Patriotic Emulation Congress, Dr A said that the surgery in July last year to separate the conjoined twins was ranked among the world’s top 10 most complex conjoined-twin surgeries.
The twins were joined at the pelvis and abdomen, and had only one anus between them. They had two bladders located on either side of their common abdomen, an open pubic joint, and pelvises arranged in a circle.
The twins are now healthy and receiving rehabilitation therapy at the City Children’s Hospital. On April 8 this year, the hospital’s doctors performed surgery to close a temporary stomach and create a complete digestive tract for one child, while the other will have an operation to create a real anus when she is two years old.
Dr A said that the surgery was proof of the expertise of the city’s surgeons, anesthesiologists and other medical workers in resuscitation in the paediatric field.
The City Children’s Hospital, which is equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and machines, opened in 2018. It is the third paediatric hospital in the city to treat severely ill patients in the city and from the southern region, and to train healthcare staff at district and province-level hospitals.
Many specialised centres in the city have been established in recent years, including the nuclear medicine centre at City Children’s Hospital, as well as others like the cardiac centre at Children’s Hospital 1 and the organ transplantation centre at Children’s Hospital 2.
Other significant medical achievements in the city include the treatment last year of the first two patients who tested positive for the coronavirus in Vietnam at a time when COVID-19 was beginning to spread rapidly in other countries.
This achievement was proof of the professional competence of Vietnamese physicians and the Government’s efforts to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
At that time, two Chinese patients, a son who worked in HCM City and his father who was visiting him, were diagnosed with COVID-19 and treated at Cho Ray Hospital.
After 14 days of treatment, the son was discharged from the hospital on February 4 last year. The father recovered and was discharged eight days later.
According to Cho Ray Hospital doctors, the father suffered from diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, and had a surgical resection due to lung cancer. The doctors described the father’s recovery as an “amazing achievement”.
The professional competence of physicians at hospitals in HCM City was once again affirmed following the successful treatment of Vietnam’s most critically ill COVID-19 patient, a British pilot in his 40s.
After 107 days of treatment at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases and Cho Ray Hospital, the pilot finally recovered and returned to the UK on July 12 after a request from the UK Embassy in Vietnam. At one point, his condition was so serious that only 10 per cent of the man’s lungs were functioning properly.
The COVID-19 outbreaks over the past year have been controlled well in HCM City as well as in the country, thanks to the determination and efforts of authorities at all levels as well as the public and officials working in preventive medicine.
Robot, AI applications
Other achievements in recent years include the first surgery with the assistance of a Da Vinci robot, performed by doctors at Binh Dan Hospital in the city in 2016.
|Doctors from the Philippines General Hospital observe doctors from Binh Dan Hospital in HCM City use robots to perform surgery on two obese patients to remove part of their stomachs. Photo courtesy of the Binh Dan Hospital|
Using a robot to assist surgery was one of several medical achievements recognised by the Ministry of Health.
Its use has contributed to developing a high-quality specialised medical centre in the city.
Binh Dan Hospital has used robots to assist doctors in treatment of more than 20 kinds of diseases, including cancer. Surgery with robots has been used on 1,256 patients.
Through a magnified 3D high-definition vision system, surgeons can direct the robot’s hands to bend and rotate 540 degrees, far more than a human hand.
In October 2017, Cho Ray Hospital began using robots in minimally invasive surgery.
In early 2019, People’s Hospital 115 in the city created a new milestone in the country’s medical sector when it used a Modus V Synaptive II robot to assist surgery to remove a brain tumour from a female patient from Tay Ninh, a neighbouring province.
The robot was used to assist in the treatment of a patient who had suffered a hemorrhagic stroke, according to the city’s Health Department.
The hospital was the first in Asia to use this kind of robot.
People’s Hospital 115 and Gia An 115 Hospital were the first hospitals in the country to use RAPID Artificial Intelligence software to make faster and more accurate decisions on stroke diagnosis and treatment. The software was developed by Stanford University in the US.
For years, HCM City has been famous worldwide for its high-quality IVF (in vitro treatment) treatment for people who want to have children. This field has attracted the highest number of foreign patients and has helped the city develop medical tourism.
Dr Nguyen Thi Ngoc Phuong, former director of Tu Du Obstetrics Hospital, was a pioneer in performing IVF technique in the country, beginning in 1997.
After 22 years of development, the country has helped assisted-reproductive technology develop rapidly in Asia.
The city’s Health Department has plans to use more advanced techniques at units at Tu Du and Hung Vuong obstetrics hospitals and several private hospitals.
Moreover, specialised centres such as the Stroke Centre at People’s Hospital 115, the Dialysis Centre at Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital, and the Organ Transplantation Centre at Children’s Hospital 2 are continuing to improve their quality and effectiveness.
Besides the development of advanced techniques in diagnosis and treatment, the city’s Health Department has also asked doctors at major public hospitals to give further training to their colleagues at hospitals in many districts.
Following the department’s instruction, hospitals such as Gia Dinh People’s Hospital, People’s Hospital 115, Le Van Thinh General Hospital and Thu Duc City Hospital have provided comprehensive technical assistance to Binh Chanh District Hospital, District 7 Hospital and others.
The doctors from these major hospitals have performed surgeries alongside their colleagues at the district level, and have also worked with them in Red Alert emergency procedures to save severely ill patients.
Thanks to this training method, many district-level hospitals in the city have begun to perform complex surgeries.
Doctors from the trauma and orthopaedics department at Gia Dinh People’s Hospital and Go Vap District Hospital, for instance, successfully performed a hip replacement surgery in March on a 53-year-old patient who had osteonecrosis of the femoral head.
Moreover, many major hospitals in the city have opened satellite clinics at district-level hospitals to train the doctors who work there.
The city’s Department of Health has also invested in upgrading or building new facilities for district-level hospitals.
Many district-level hospitals have sent their doctors to health centres at the grassroots level to provide better primary healthcare services to local residents. This has helped address the shortage of doctors in these localities and has also attracted more local residents.
Health centres in the city in recent years have invested in upgrading their facilities and bought more machines for treatment. The city has 26 ward-level health centres that operate based on family-medicine principles.
Go Vap Health Centre is collaborating with Go Vap District Hospital to provide telemedicine services to local people through an app called True Conf. The city’s Department of Health plans to expand this telemedicine model to other districts. District-level hospitals and grassroots-level health centres have been told to upgrade their medical techniques.
The deputy head of the city’s health department, Tang Chi Thuong, said that the competency of staff members at grassroots-level health centres has improved, which has helped to meet local healthcare demand.
|The HCM City Oncology Hospital last year opened a new facility in District 9 in an effort to reduce patient overcrowding in Binh Thanh District. Investment in the new 1,000-bed facility was more than VND5.8 trillion (US$250 million). VNS Photo Gia Loc|
Speaking at a conference late last year, HCM City People’s Committee chairman Nguyen Thanh Phong instructed the city’s health department to increase investment in facilities for hospitals and other medical establishments.
A high-tech medical cluster including hospitals and medical schools in Binh Chanh, Cu Chi and Thu Duc districts, and Hoc Mon regional general hospital should be ready for use by 2025, Phong said.
According to the city’s health authority, 54 projects have been completed. These include new or upgraded facilities, and new machine purchases for hospitals in the 2015-2020 period. Another 42 projects are ongoing.
The city has also paid more attention over the last five years to developing human resources and facilities to meet increased healthcare demand. It aims to become a professional medical centre in Southeast Asia.
The city’s ratio of doctors in 2020 has increased to 20 per 10,000 people, compared to 14.5 in 2014. The ratio of nurses was 35 per 10,000 people in 2020, compared to 33 in 2014, according to the city’s health department.
The department in recent years has also improved emergency health care by developing the 115 emergency aid network in an effort to provide quality emergency activities outside city hospitals. There are now 35 satellite emergency aid stations in the city.