Makassar Paves the Way for Smart and Pandemic-Proof City Planning in Indonesia

Date Published
June 22, 2021

Note: This article was updated on 9 September 2021 to include the link to the English version of the manual.

The Indonesian city of Makassar is leveraging on big data to make it more resilient against future pandemics as it continues to transform itself into a smart city. It is setting an example for other cities to follow.

South Sulawesi’s capital is part of a network of 26 smart cities under an initiative started by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 2018.

In a recent webinar, Hajah Fatmawati Rusdi, Makassar deputy mayor, said the city is deploying new technologies not just to make the city more livable, but also to bolster its resilience against pandemics. She said city initiatives to bolster its pandemic-preparedness is in line with the Makassar Recover program launched in March to get the city back on its feet in the wake of the health crisis. “The goal is to have a strong immunity for all.”

According to the city’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) online tracker, as of 16 June, Makassar has 30,504 confirmed cases and 545 deaths.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made it urgent to develop a new mindset for designing pandemic-resistant cities. Photo credit: ADB

Planning for urban resilience

The webinar was organized to launch the manual, Leveraging Data for Urban Design and Planning in Post-COVID Cities, which was developed using spatial pandemic-related data from Makassar to support resilient planning in the city and beyond.

Fatmawati said the data collected in developing the manual will serve the city well even after COVID-19 as it strives to make public service systems accessible to all to improve the quality of life of residents.

The manual was developed by smart city research initiative Future Cities Laboratory Singapore under the auspices of the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) ASEAN Australia Smart Cities Trust Fund. The trust fund assists ASEAN cities in enhancing their planning systems, service delivery, and financial management by developing and testing appropriate digital solutions and systems.

In launching the manual, Stephen Cairns, director of Future Cities Laboratory Singapore and professor of architecture at public research university ETH Zurich, said he hopes the manual would support Makassar's efforts to become a pandemic-resilient city.

Holistic and integrated solutions

At the webinar, Srinivas Sampath, director of the Urban Development and Water Division at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department, highlighted the need to pandemic-proof cities, noting COVID-19 had exposed how vulnerable cities are in terms of service systems and economic disparities.

Addressing these vulnerabilities and inequalities is going to demand a rethink of how to approach urban development, particularly in developing holistic and integrated solutions that would enhance city-wide urban resilience and prioritize expansion of adopted capacities to cushion citizens against shocks, he said.

“The key to building back better is going to be building back smarter. A human-centered approach to planning and development, combined with smart and evidence-based solution, will certainly support the cities to move forward with the next best practice as against the traditional approach.”

According to the manual, pandemic-resilient city planning is a relatively new concept despite previous outbreaks of SARS and swine flu. It noted, however, that the scale, impact, and urgency of the COVID-19 pandemic are much greater, making it urgent to develop a new mindset for designing a pandemic-resistant city. This requires an understanding of the patterns of interaction between cities—urban planning systems, urban space patterns, and other factors—and the spread of the disease.

The manual is intended to help city planners analyze existing data to gain new perspectives, which will hopefully be translated practically into the process of city design and policy formulation. It uses data visualization methods that enable a better understanding of the data by cross-analyzing, finding patterns of data relationships, and examining the data with trial-and-error methods to get different perspectives.

The manual is available at ADB's Development Asia website in Bahasa Indonesia and in English.