Facilitate Smart Planning with Cloud-Computing and Crowdsourcing Technologies for Small City-Town Regions




Join the Department of Social Sciences for this Great Problems, Great Minds seminar series event featuring guest speaker Ming Zhang, who serves as professor and program director of community and regional planning in the School of Architecture at the University of Texas at Austin. Zhang is also director of the USDOT University Transportation Center: Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions (CM2).

Small cities and townships in the vast hinterland of China are facing serious problems accompanying their rapid urbanization. These problems range from high environmental and social costs to decreased habitat quality. Unlike their counterparts in coastal affluent regions, these remotely located small communities have insufficient planning capacities to tackle the problems due to 1) lack of integrated database and information infrastructure for planning and development management; 2) lack of affordable tools and technologies for information update; 3) lack of professional expertise needed for town plan-making and management coordination; and 4) lack of trained manpower for development monitoring and code enforcement.

A planning support system (PSS) was developed aiming at serving the planning needs of remotely located small cities and townships, with four features: 1) achieving data integration via the cloud-computing platform in provincial geo-data center; 2) developing mobile apps for information update and development monitoring through low-budget, cellphone-based crowdsourcing; 3) constructing virtual offices for remote plan review and permitting services; and 4) implementing a public participation platform that integrates website services and WeChat. The PSS was implemented in Shennongjia Forestry District (SFD), Hubei Province. SFD is home to one of China’s ten National Nature Reserves and an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its constituent townships and villages spread over a mountainous territory of 3,253 square kilometers. SFD presents an excellent case to explore the potential of technology-enabled planning tools to support smart planning for sustainability in remotely located regions.


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