For many, the term “smart city” evokes a first-world, highly urbanized metropolis with driverless cars on the streets. But Cauayan’s vision of a smart city for its citizens, particularly for its farmers, is more down-to-earth.
The northern Luzon city of Cauayan in Isabela, one of the country’s premier agro-industrial hubs, is also one of the Philippines’ first smart cities. It has its own citizen app, a unified electronic payment system across the town, and free Wi-Fi in its barangays to help the local government deliver its services to citizens more efficiently.
“Smart cities can be as complex as having sensors in every street, in every aspect of the city. It can be as complicated and futuristic as having laws and ordinances passed to allow driverless, unmanned vehicles on the streets. But it can also be as simple as informing the farmers if it’s going to rain or not,” said Cauayan City mayor Bernard Dy, who has been at the forefront of Cauayan’s journey toward being a smart city for the past years.
For Dy, the core of a smart city is using technology to ultimately improve the lives of the people. “These simple things — as simple as getting information through technology — really change the lives of people and improve them in ways that we cannot imagine,” Dy said.
“We have really embraced technology and used it to make our citizens’ lives more convenient,” Dy added. “For example, if the farmers know that it is going to rain, then they won’t leave their produce out to dry and risk spoiling them.”
To boost these smart city initiatives, Dy recently signed a memorandum of agreement with PLDT and Smart for the upgrade their fixed and mobile network services to transform Cauayan into a “fully fiberized” and Smart LTE-powered city that provides efficient digital services to its constituents.
PLDT is currently rolling out its fiber-powered fixed broadband network across Cauayan to serve customers with Internet service speeds of up to 1Gbps. Meanwhile, Smart is upgrading its existing cell sites across the city to provide 4G or Long-Term Evolution (LTE) mobile data services. Smart is also set to rollout additional LTE sites in Cauayan in the coming months.
Dy recalled how Cauayan’s journey toward being a smart city began in 2015. “The Department of Science and Technology wanted to embark on a bigger and grander mission to transform our country into a smarter nation. At the time, it was only Cauayan City that really embraced this smart city initiative,” Dy said.
Sancho Mabborang, DOST regional director for Region 2, said that Cagayan Valley may be the Philippines’ Silicon Valley. “Now, with PLDT and Smart supporting this smart city project, we will be able to expedite the realization of Cauayan City’s ambitions,” Mabborang said, speaking during the recent MoA signing ceremonies attended by PLDT-Smart executives and local government officials.
“When we talk about smart cities, a lot of people think it’s a highly urbanized city, it’s a metropolitan city, a cosmopolitan city, a First World city. But it could be so ironic to find a smart city in a rural setting,” Dy said. “This has challenged us to show the country that if we can do it in Cauayan, in the rural setting, there is no reason for other cities not to do it.”
More than transforming their own city, Cauayan is looking at inspiring a national movement. “We have also embarked on a mission to create more cities in the Philippines that follow this smart and sustainable framework,” said Dy.
And with national legislation to support smart cities already underway, Dy is even more hopeful. “This is our way of showing the rest of the world that even if we are a third world country, once we embrace technology, we will be at par with the rest of the world,” he said.
PLDT and Smart also announced that it has struck an agreement with Isabela State University to conduct research in developing relevant digital services utilizing cutting-edge technologies.
PLDT-Smart will deploy the country’s first XGS-PON, or symmetrical 10Gbps Fixed Internet technology in ISU to help its faculty and students to develop future smart city applications and other innovations for their province.
This partnership with Cauayan City is part of broader efforts of PLDT and Smart to support government initiatives to improve the delivery of public services through the expansion of their fixed and mobile network infrastructure across the country.