October 25, 2023
PHNOM PENH – The ancient town of Siem Reap, renowned for its Angkor World Heritage Site and vibrant tourism industry, is on the cusp of a significant transformation into a “Smart City” by 2035.
Scheduled for completion by 2035, the Siem Reap Smart City project has a dual purpose: enhancing the local community’s well-being and accommodating a significantly larger number of tourists, projected to reach more than 18 million, in 2035.
Yun Linne, deputy governor of Siem Reap province, sheds light on the crucial role played by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in this smart city endeavour.
JICA’s technical cooperation assistance spanning three years has been pivotal in charting the town’s course towards becoming a smart city.
In the initial phase, from 2020 to 2022, JICA’s efforts centred on identifying challenges and crafting a comprehensive roadmap for overcoming them on the journey to becoming a smart city.
“In the second phase, covering 2022 to 2025, we’ve begun the execution of six key projects,” Linne explained during the Official Development Assistance (ODA) press tour 2023, held recently at the provincial hall.
These projects encompass various aspects of smart city development:
Enhancing Waste Collection: Aiming to streamline waste collection processes in Siem Reap for a cleaner and more efficient city.
Monitoring Illegal Parking: Employing technology to manage and oversee parking, thereby reducing congestion and improving urban mobility.
Digitalisation of Tourism Statistics: Leveraging data to optimise tourism planning and management.
Provincial Administration Internal Document Monitoring System: Increasing administrative efficiency through digitalisation.
Monitoring the Urban Environment: Using sensor technology for real-time environmental condition monitoring.
Public-Private Sector Collaboration in Tourism: Cultivating collaboration between the public and private sectors to boost tourism.
“As part of this phase, we are currently working on a pilot project that focuses on waste collection and transportation using intelligent systems, along with the development of a data platform,” Linne noted.
The current state of affairs clearly demonstrates that smart cities are no longer just a theoretical idea but a concrete reality. The roadmap for the smart city, complete with a well-defined vision, emerged through collaboration between Japanese and Cambodian counterparts and received approval in March.
To ensure efficient execution, the Smart City Commission has been established across multiple divisions within the provincial administration, as stated by JICA.
“Several pilot projects are currently in progress, with the objective of guaranteeing the efficient implementation of intelligent solutions,” said a JICA announcement.
“Concurrently, we are crafting yearly action plans to bolster monitoring systems, emphasising the town’s unwavering dedication to its path,” added the notice.
Linne conveyed that in 2024, the provincial administration plans to allocate funds directly from the budget to facilitate the implementation of the six projects in partnership with JICA.
The cooperative endeavours primarily concentrate on the review, revision and ultimate completion of the smart city development roadmap. This outline has received official approval and is on the verge of being published shortly.
It incorporates training and capacity-building programmes for administrative personnel, enabling them to acquire crucial IT competencies and facilitating educational trips to Japan.
He remarked that precise work activity planning is in progress to guarantee the successful execution of the smart city plan for the years 2023 to 2024.
“The provincial administration urges all stakeholders to work together and actively participate in shaping Siem Reap’s transformation into a smart city by 2035, while also advancing tourism and elevating the provision of tourism services,” he detailed.
“This effort will result in the improvement of public services and an enhanced quality of life,” Linne stated.
Initiating the Smart City vision
The origins of Siem Reap’s smart city journey can be traced back to 2018 when the ambitious “SIEM REAP SMART” project was initially envisioned.
The objective was evident: To leverage technology and innovation to enhance the quality of life for Siem Reap’s local populace of approximately 250,000 residents, and the six million tourists who frequented the province before the global disruption triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic.
This transformation wasn’t an isolated endeavour but rather aligned with more extensive regional and national initiatives, as stated by Thoeurt Soviet, director of Inter-sectoral Management at Siem Reap provincial hall.
The approval of the ASEAN Smart City Network (ASCN) framework document during the ASEAN Summit in 2018 paved the way for Siem Reap and other ASEAN cities to collaborate and prosper.
“Siem Reap has become one of Cambodia’s three innovative smart cities and one of the 26 pilot cities designated by ASEAN to guide this transformative endeavour,” Soviet remarked.
The four pillars of “SIEM REAP SMART”
Soviet said that at the core of Siem Reap’s smart city vision are four fundamental pillars:
1. FOR: This pillar underscores Siem Reap’s unwavering commitment to its citizens and tourists alike. Inclusivity is a central tenet, with a particular focus on addressing the needs of vulnerable societal groups.
2. WITH: “SIEM REAP SMART” recognises the importance of preserving and integrating Siem Reap’s rich cultural, natural and historical heritage, epitomised by the Angkor site. This heritage is not just preserved but skilfully woven into the fabric of a technologically advanced future.
3. BY: A solution-driven approach is championed under this pillar. The emphasis is not just on adopting technology for its own sake but on judiciously selecting and implementing smart solutions tailored to local needs and challenges.
4. TOWARD: Ultimately, the vision extends beyond technology adoption. It envisions the realisation of a sustainable urban environment that enhances the quality of life for both residents and tourists.
International collaboration and Japanese expertise
Siem Reap’s quest to evolve into a smart city is not an isolated endeavour but rather a component of a worldwide and regional cooperative initiative.
It has established connections with various Japanese regions, including Kota, Aichi, Karagawa, Konnatsu and Osaka. These associations go beyond conventional partnerships, involving active involvement in forums such as the Inter East Asia Inter-Regional Tourism Federation (EATOF), underscoring Siem Reap’s commitment to global best practices.
Kuribayashi Takanori, the first secretary of the Japanese embassy in Phnom Penh, provides insights into Japan’s role in Siem Reap’s smart city project.
“Of the three Cambodian cities undergoing smart city transformations, including Phnom Penh and Battambang, Siem Reap stands out due to its unparalleled cultural heritage,” he said.
Experts, supported by JICA, have played a crucial role in the examination and strategic planning of the city’s smart transition.
Kuribayashi highlights six significant challenges that, if tackled, can pave the path for Siem Reap’s smart city designation in accordance with the 2035 blueprint.
Japan’s contributions: Lighting up Siem Reap
Beyond their expertise, Japan has made practical contributions to Siem Reap’s development. As but one example, Japan supplied 2,450 LED public street lights that brighten the town’s primary thoroughfares, improving safety and visibility.
“This initiative not only underscores the commitment to a smarter Siem Reap but also contributes to energy efficiency and sustainability,” said Linne.
Japan has also committed to broadening Siem Reap’s water supply system via JICA assistance, with a total investment of nearly $90 million.
This extensive initiative involves erecting a new water treatment facility capable of processing 60,000 cubic metres and establishing a network of 196km of water distribution pipelines. Clean and easily accessible water stands as a fundamental element of a flourishing smart city.