A Remarkable day in Malaysia Urban Forum 2019 – A UN-Habitat partner forum

Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Wan Ismail - Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia at Malaysia Urban Forum

It was a remarkable day to remember! As people say getting out of the place could enlighten us on how to better solve the problem we are currently in. We don’t need to always try to solve bigger problems by alone but collaborating with others could easy up the job. That’s what happened in today event, Malaysia Urban Forum 2019. 

I have been researching and modelling a solution on how to solve public transportation problem. Due to that reason I went to “National library of Malaysia” to get some spatial analytical data to help with the modelling of the solution.  So when I took the bus402 from the library to the METRO station, I came to know about this event just a day before from a advertisement in public transport bus(402) while crossing KLCC. That was a good coincidence that got me here which allowed me to connect few dots together. 


Before going ahead with the whole story, just a background that we have been trying to create is a online community called Ideasforsocial.org which allow people to curate “community problem solving” ideas and also discuss about any problems that are curated around United Nation sustainable goals (Under discuss.ideasforsocial.org). Also we initially start to build our funding platform that can help provide options for this ideas into reality (which was on pending due to technology manpower issues). 


So this public transportation problem solving solution is a individual product that provides a AI based recommendation for government transport authority (which I will cover in the pending article once the modelling is ready) 

This public transport recommendation tool helps on 3 things

  • Create a new route recommendation which public transportation authority can utilise to create new bus routes (in the end LRT/MRT routes)
  • Revamp the existing inefficient routes (For example: Some routes which take 3-5 transit to reach a 15km distance) 
  • Improving the experience and quality of the service (Transport Cleanliness, Bus driver hospitality, Bus stop environment improvement, other commercial opportunity)

What happened in Malaysia Urban Forum?

So with this two things which is already going on in my mind, I started the day with this event. Than I expected, it was lot of moments that happened to speed up my solution building process and also getting anew exposure of all the existing initiatives which is happening around urban Malaysia (Government, Entrepreneurs, Startups, Organisation, Profit Based companies). 

I will just cover the learning and insights which I got it from there instead of sharing everything. However the links I am sharing has detailed information if you are trying to discover more about it.

1: UNDP – smart cities to achieve sustainable goals

Presented by Timur, UNDP

UN powered Matching platform : This Matchmaking system helps different parties to connect each other and allow each of them to help solving their problem. For example: Bandah Ace in Indonesia used this platform to spread about their problem and asking different stakeholders if they have a solution to it. According to Timur, this platform also enabled local incubator and startups to find a solution for it. So the insight here is same as the overall lesson of let people know what’s your problem and so people can come together to solve. 

So in this scenario, platform like ideasforsocial could allow all citizens take part in the discussion of the this problem. 

One of the important slide which was interesting to me was the top 5 problems which Singapore has prioritised when it was a chairperson of ASEAN smart cities network. This an insight for us to prioritize which problem we need to solve. 

Secondly, there was a respected girl from Nairobi who was giving a in-depth sharing about how UN setup targets, measure the performance of UN SDGoals. It was bit difficult to read what was on the slide but there are few useful information which was shared there related to the players we need to consider while designing smart cities. The players include energy, water, wasta, mobility’s and others. I was curious about whether does the countries or local organisation submit like a report to UN for performance indicators and also to see the impact of UN initiatives. So I asked that question and the answer is “Yes, every year the local bodies send some sort of report to UN where they consolidate and do a review may be…” This is important especially in digital initiative that without measurement, there is no result.

One of the important point which I never thought while thinking about different solutions is the players who can’t really use those technologies. Yes the kids and elderly people. So we need to consider this players as well when we design the system. 

Then there was session from SAP about their smart solution for government sectors. Even though it was bit sales pitchy thing but the way they structured the solution and offerings and how they all help each others nicely shown. May be German design thinking 😁? 

After that event the was the opening Ceremony of this Malaysia Urban Forum. I didn’t expect what happened there. First it was a very like a stage dance performance ( good break for my stressed mind) and then followed by different speeches from delegates, especially from the Malaysian citizen who has been working with UN was giving a very energetic speech on how Malaysia should be moving forward and her determined looks. Very few times I see people like that. Then was the main speech and a worthy long one from Deputy Prime Minster of Malaysia! 

She started sharing about how safe Malaysia should be, how considerate it should be elders (similar to singapore, significant portion of Malaysia will be facing old age people problem) and the city planning should be considered from soul perspective and not being a like robot driven society! 

ONE VERY important slide from her presentation is…. 

Do you know what’s the first frustrating thing from all Malaysians? ITS THE TRAFFIC.

40% of Malaysians listed road congestion as their number one frustration

– Frost & Sullivan

I believe one of the root cause is public transportation. People who lost faith in public transportation opted for Cars. Now there are 2-3 cars in most of the home. Then what will happen ? JAM of course. Pollution next. Waste of money on this energy. And many other facts which am already covering in the public transportation focused article. 

This traffic problem slide is a good sign for me! Not because it’s sad, it’s a good challenge adding to the point of my own frustration in public transportation which we already start to work on! So we are solving something worth every Malaysian think! 

As I told before adding to the 5 priorities which singapore has shared and seeing the first frustrating thing shared from Deputy Prime Minister, it has become clear what me and my team should be working on. 

Btw, I had a chance to take a selfie with deputy PM, unfortunately my selfie doesn’t work and my mistake! 

Then came back to the main hall to visit all booths. The first solution was an interesting solution that I always want to build for government and communities. 

PutraJaya City Mobile app

This solution from one____ offers a mobile solution for the communities in PutraJaya city to find info about different service, buy for event tickets, submit feedbacks about problems and other useful features. On top of the feedbacks, the feedbacks are routed to the respective department and once they are solved, the community get back the reply of the successful solution and fix. It’s really cool if it works as shared. We would like to build a similar open source solution for every local cities who can’t afford to pay or build something on their own. As shared by the sales head, the government doesn’t pay anything for this platform but this company make revenue from the commission of events transaction which I believe it’s a win win situation.

While I was listening to this solution, the minister of Kuala Lumpur was listening to another demonstration. Learning the lesson from selfie mistake, I decided to ask someone help when I met the Minister of Federal Territories, Kuala Lumpur 😄 And here is the photo. One day I want to meet him and show the successful product we have built for the family. Dreaming big, it could be accepted by UN.

Then I moved to another interesting solution which is bit of similar to the previous one and it is a good product as well. I didn’t take lot of pictures considering the fact that I could find online and my battery dying 🙂 

It helps the community solution (They call it as a local social networks) as well

  • Pay maintanance fee
  • Get the community articles 
  • SOS 
  • Feedbacks  submission, etc

Then I went to booths like RapidKL, Statistics department of Malaysia, Geo4map(guess the name is correct) looking for the data points for the route recommendation system 

Data such 

  1. Daily Taken route > home and work address with non confidential data which helps to analyse supply and demand of public transportation 
  2. The Government system which provides the population of each 1-5KM area. To analyse how frequent the public transportation is needed
  3. Optionally The Bus tap machine provides the source and destination and the respective log data (Transit, Price, time) as this helps to find how many transit people are taking and how can we reduce this 
  4. An New App which collect user feedback about everything (would be built by us)

Then coincidentally am able to attend a session spoke representatives from DBKL housing department and UTM university researchers. Which I couldn’t attend the full session as I was late but I sort of got the context of what UTM researchers are trying to do on city planning, architecture and what are all the elements they need to consider when they build this planning of urban architecture. 

One big useful thing attending that event is am able to find the DBKL representative to whom I roughly explained the concept of our transportation recommendation system and got her contact number. There is 2 objective to meet her. One if there is a chance to get population per short distance and other data points mentioned above. While understanding my role as a consultant, she was bit hesitant and then I clarified am not working on this for money but just passion and contribution on public transportation improvement. 

Also am able to meet 3 students of UTM who are architects after the whole day session where I told about my idea and in case if needed, I con contact them for any help! They should be knowledgeable in architecting. We spoke about Depth Map software and what It can do because am looking whether QGIS could help with transportation planning.

When I got down, met the city planning team of Pahang state 🙂 🙂 and the same story of explaining the idea and also get to see how they plan their city. Might be in future if things work out, we could apply the same solution for Pahang as well, IA. 

Then I met two delegates from UN, same story. And they gave their business card and a guy named Omer shared about a next event coming in Penang where I may try to showcase ideasforsocial platform there. (Let’s see, but the platform lot of improvement which is still basic for now) 

Then THINK CITY, a nonprofit organisation which has been running for last 10years providing consultation on placemaking(wiki link) to different communities. This placemaking is a really something I love because this make great impact on community harmony and integration which I want to focus on a special article in coming weeks on ideasforsocial discussion platform. 

Then meeting a big city planning group called AUDG and an another very interesting long conversation with Neuron electric bike team. After the conversation we thought why not the route recommendation system take electric bike into consideration. So on the routes which public transportation is not possible, we could provide electric bike as another mode of transportation! 

AND the day ended. but the list of action items started 🙂