Yinchuan: What Makes a City Smart?

Following-up on our latest blog entry about the TM Forum Smart City InFocus conference, this post is going to focus on the host city of the event: Yinchuan. Yinchuan is a city in the northwest of China with a population of about 2 million people, which has been selected as a pilot city to become a “smart city.” This is the result of a national plan for building new cities to give response to China’s rapid urbanization rate and the Chinese cities’ willingness and aspirations to become among the smartest in the world.

As the capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and the former capital of the Western Xia Empire of the Tanguts, Yinchuan is a political, economic and cultural center in the Ningxia Province. The city is a multi-national metropolis with many ethnic groups including Hui, a Chinese ethnic minority predominantly of Muslim faith, Han, Manchu, Mongolian and Chaoxian peoples, among many others.

                                        Yinchuan Nanguan Mosque

Smart Yinchuan

Today, the city is undergoing an ambitious renovation. In 2013 Yinchuan was selected as a pilot smart city in China, with the aim to transform the city into “Smart Yinchuan.” The Smart project, led by the Yinchuan government and ZTE Corporation – which signed an agreement in 2014 to invest $500 million on smart city initiatives in Yinchuan -, has achieved success in many diverse areas after little more than two years.

Smart Yinchuan is designed to integrate different smart city applications and innovative digital technologies, including smart traffic management, big data, a more interactive and responsive city administration and e-government, optimized garbage collection, affordable housing, telemedicine services, smart environmental protection, advanced public security, among others. For instance, while walking on the streets of Yinchuan, you can see highways and streets full of Cameras and RFID readers for public safety and data collection.

During the event, the organizers took us, the delegates, to a city tour of “Smart Yinchuan.” The tour included a visit to the Yinchuan Citizens Hall – with its administrative system reform for Smart Government -, the City Operations Command Center, and to a Smart Community.

                                                   Smart Yinchuan Operations Command Center

In the Smart Community people can benefit from smart services, such as face-recognition access control systems, electronic bus stop boards, free community WiFi, treated drinking water utilities, intelligent trash cans, and daily physical examination rooms. There are plans to expand these smart residential zones in the following year.

By far, what caught my attention was that many of the residential building complexes, offices buildings and Government buildings in the new part of the city seemed to be pretty empty. The old town looked crowed, but the new city looked half empty.

However, taking into account that China’s urbanization rate continues to rise at an unprecedented speed – the country’s urbanization rate is expected to reach about 60 percent by 2020, which means some 100 million people moving from the countryside to cities over the next years -, it looks like city developers in Yinchuan have planned a city for a much higher population than the current one, establishing the bases and infrastructures ready for those people to move in.

Have you ever visited Yinchuan? Tell us about your experience!

About Joan Enric Ricart

Joan E. Ricart, Fellow of the SMS and EURAM, is the Carl Schrøder Professor of Strategic Management and Chairman of the Strategic Management Department at the IESE Business School, University of Navarra. In this school he has been Director of the Doctoral Program (1995-2006), Associate Dean for Research (2001-2006), and Associate Director for Faculty and Research (2006-2014). He is also Vice-president of the Iberoamerican Academy of Management. He was the Founding president of the European Academy of Management (EURAM) and President of the Strategic Management Society (SMS). He was the academic director of the EIASM and member of the research committee of the EFMD. Joan E. Ricart holds a Ph.D in Managerial Economics, Northwestern University; Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya; and Ph.D. in Economics and Business Administration, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He has published several books and articles in leading journals. He is Director of the Center for Globalization and Strategy, co-academic director of IESE Cities in Motion and academic director of the UN center of excellence of PPP for Cities. He is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Future of Urban Development and Service Initiative of the World Economic Forum. His current work focuses on cities, business models, and general management.

About Ana Isabel Duch

Ana Isabel Duch is a research collaborator at IESE Business School. She holds a master’s degree in International Relations from the Institut Barcelona d’Estudis Internacionals (IBEI) and a bachelor’s in Business Management and Administration from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF). Before joining IESE, she worked on research and consultancy projects related to socio-economic development and international trade at the European Commission (DG Trade), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) and at ACCIÓ Berlin (Government of Catalonia). Her areas of research interest include sustainable development, global and local governance and international political economy.

8 thoughts on “Yinchuan: What Makes a City Smart?

  1. Oh yes, I have been to Yinchuan in 2015, it’s a beautiful smart city. China has potential to make more smart cities like Yinchuan in future.

  2. A very beautiful city and so look beautiful once on the image. Another time maybe I could go there to visit the city. Yes hopefully. Thank you for posting this nice and interesting.

  3. With Yellow River, Yinchuan enjoys beautiful natural scenery and favorable conditions for agriculture and has long earned the fame of a “River Side City in the Northwest” and “Home to Fishes and Rice”. Yinchuan is now the permanent site for China-Arab Expo which is an international platform for cultural and economic exchanges between China and Arab countries.
    A great city so far!

  4. Apart from the above point you mentioned, i would like to add video analytics in the Smart city also. the reason is as we know as our streets get more crowded with more traffic, the need of the hour is smart solutions that can help us control and curb traffic-related problems.

  5. An amazing city and so look beautiful once on the image. Another time maybe I could go there to visit the city. Yes hopefully. Thank you for posting this nice and interesting.

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