An innovative, high-tech "smart village" built in Malaysia provides a potential global template for addressing rural poverty in a sustainable environment, say international experts meeting in California's Silicon Valley.
Rimbunan Kaseh, a model community built north-east of Kuala Lumpur, consists of 100 affordable homes, high-tech educational, training and recreational facilities, and a creative, closed-loop agricultural system designed to provide both food and supplementary income for villagers.
Malaysian Dato' Tan Say Jim detailed the project Monday at a special meeting in San Jose of the Global Science and Innovation Advisory Council (GSIAC) -- a unique assembly of all-star international and Malaysian experts and leaders created to guide sustainable Malaysian development.
The "smart village," located on 12 hectares in the Malaysian state of Pahang, includes a four-level aquaculture system whereby water cascades through a series of tanks to raise, first, fish sensitive to water quality, then tilapia ("the world's answer to affordable protein," says Mr. Tan), then guppies and finally algae. The latter two products are used to feed the larger fish.
Filtered fish tank wastewater is then used to irrigate trees, grain fields and crops such as flowers and fresh produce, the plants grown individually in novel hydroponic devices. The "auto-pot" is a three-piece plastic container that automatically detects soil moisture levels and waters plants precisely as required, reducing needs for costly fertilizers and pesticides as well as water.
Organic waste is composted to encourage worms and other organisms on which free-range chickens feed together with the home-grown grains.
In addition to access to reliable food supplies, villagers augment their monthly income by an estimated $400 to $650.
"It is a complete loop; a modern farm -- one that could even exist on the rooftop of a building," says Mr. Tan of IRIS Corporation Berhad, which spearheads the public-private partnership.
The energy-efficient homes (roughly 100 square meters – 1,000 square feet) require 10 days to construct, in part from post-consumer materials, and cost between 50,000 to 60,000 Malaysian Ringgit ($16,000 to $20,000).
The village's solar-generated power is complemented by biomass energy and mini-hydro electricity.
Rounding out the design: a community hall, resource centre, places of worship, playgrounds and educational facilities equipped with 4G Internet service supporting both e-learning and e-health services.
Photos of the "smart village" are available for download online at https://dl.dropbox.com/u/3960397/smart%20village%20photos.zip. A video depicting home construction is online here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OvXaWmlB6Wg.
"With this project we stimulate rural growth with modern agriculture activities, we balance development and economic activities between the urban and rural areas, we provide income and we improve living standards," says Mr. Tan.
Malaysia is looking to scale up the smart village initiative, replicating the Rimbunan Kaseh model at as many as 12 sites in the short to medium term.
"This model offers a great opportunity to create holistic change for people in the worse circumstances in Malaysia and other nations as well," says Ellis Rubinstein, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), which co-chairs the GSIAC Secretariat with the Malaysian Industry-Government Group on High Technology (MIGHT).
Says Mr. Rubinstein: "Integrated smart communities could transform services available to Malaysia's citizenry while creating thousands of jobs, complementing GSIAC's unprecedented alliance to improve education in that country at every level from 'Cradle to Career'.
Says Dato' Zakri Abdul Hamid (Dr. A.H. Zakri), Science Advisor to Prime Minister of Malaysia and co-chair of of MIGHT: "GSIAC has provided us with an unprecedented opportunity to advance our local capacities in both scale and effectiveness. Thanks to the New York Academy of Sciences, we have a chance to work with a partnership of many of the world's leading multinational companies – usually competitors but, for us, coming together – and experts from universities around the world.
"This alliance gives us confidence we can take up in Malaysia the best practices so far demonstrated anywhere in the world. It opens the door to major foreign investment. And it gives us a chance that no other government – either regional or national – has anywhere else in the world: to develop a staged, integrated solution to our citizen's needs that will dramatically increase efficiencies of scale as well as metrics of performance and impact just by virtue of being an integrated, fully thought out plan from the outset."
Assembled last year, GSIAC is composed of leading education, economics, business, science and technology experts from Malaysia, China, India, Russia, Japan, Korea, The Netherlands, the UK and the USA, including two Nobel laureates, each volunteering to help the Asian country achieve an environmentally-sustainable, high-income economy driven by knowledge and innovation.
The full Council meets annually, chaired by Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Dato' Sri Mohd. Najib Tun Abdul Razak.
Attended the special "smart communities" inter-sessional meeting in San Jose:
• Ellis Rubinstein, President & CEO, New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS)
• Brian Mefford, Chairman and CEO, Connected Nation Inc.
• Dr. Vivek Wadhwa, Visiting Scholar, School of Information, University of California, Berkeley
• Hon. Jerry MacArthur Hultin, President, Polytechnic Institute of New York University
• Alfred Watkins, Executive Chairman, Global Innovation Summit
• Dr. Ossama Hassanein, Founder, Newbury Ventures & Director, TechWadi
• Rebeca Hwang, CEO, YouNoodle
• Professor Emeritus Dr. Phillip Griffiths, Former Director, Institute for Advanced Study and Chair of the Board, Science Initiative Group
• Dr. Ken Simiyu, Program Officer, Grand Challenges Canada
• Omer Imtiazuddin, Independent consultant, Grand Challenges Canada
• Sanjay Chheda, Vice President, Intellectual Ventures, Seattle, Washington
• Saad Andary, Second Vice-Governor, Central Bank of Lebanon
• Alistair Nolan, Senior Policy Analyst, Structural Policy Division, Directorate, Science, Technology and Innovation, OECD
• Ade Mabogunje, Senior Research Scientist, Stanford University Center for Venture Design Research
• Dr. Mandana Arabi, Director, The Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science
• Kiryn Haslinger Hoffman, Vice President, Development, NYAS
• Brett VanLandingham, Program Manager, Innovation & Sustainability, NYAS
• Dr. Christopher S. Hayter, Director, Innovation and Sustainability, NYAS
• Dr. Meghan Groome, Director, K12 Education and Science & the City, NYAS
July 17, 2012