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Smart city development on Lao government agenda for 2019

Smart city development on Lao government agenda for 2019

The government has added smart city development to its agenda for this year as landlocked Laos seeks ways to strengthen its economic competitiveness in the coming years.

The government told the National Assembly last month it is hopeful that work towards this initiative will start this year.

The smart city initiative is one of the mega development projects the government plans to undertake this year, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Somdy Duangdy told the Assembly last month.

Other large-scale government-backed projects include the construction of international airports, a seaport in central Vietnam for use by Lao freight companies, and the development of special economic zones along the route taken by the under-construction Laos-China railway.

No details of the smart city initiative are available and none of the government’s policies give any idea about how smart cities in Laos might look. There is also no information about taxes and the possible tax breaks that might be offered to participating companies.

However, the inclusion of the smart city concept in the government’s 2019 work plan is seen as a significant intervention to bolster economic competitiveness so that Laos can attract more foreign investment.

This is the first time the government has taken concrete action in translating the smart city concept into a working plan, even though the idea has been discussed in Laos for years.

In July, the developers of the That Luang Marsh Special Economic Zone announced they would work on their infrastructure and IT systems with a view to turning the zone into a smart city. In September, Luang Namtha authorities launched a cooperation project to conduct a feasibility study on turning the provincial capital into a smart city.

The policy makers who formulated the 2019 national socio-economic development plan view the smart city concept as one of the government-backed projects designed to transform Laos from being landlocked to a land link through the use of IT-driven logistics facilities.

Greater transport and telecommunication connectivity between Laos and other countries in the region and beyond would improve Laos’ economic competitiveness, according to the policymakers.

Observers say there is strong potential for urban centres in Laos to become smart cities if the government has a concrete policy to back this line of development. International technology firms, especially from China, have expressed interest in partnering with the government in this endeavour.

These companies view Laos as being a new investment destination with low business competition. In addition, the demand for technology and AI would increase in Laos if it were to act as a regional logistics hub and a land link in the future. VIENTIANE TIMES/ANN