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  • [2023 Japan Currents Public Affairs Seminar] Smart Cities for a Better Future | Perspectives from the U.S. and Japan

[2023 Japan Currents Public Affairs Seminar] Smart Cities for a Better Future | Perspectives from the U.S. and Japan

  • Friday, March 10, 2023
  • 4:00 PM
  • DoubleTree by Hilton Los Angeles Downtown 120 South Los Angeles Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012


As people around the world continue to prefer the urban lifestyle, demand for resources and services in the cities also increase at a substantial rate. According to the World Economic Forum, 55% of the world’s population currently live in cities and by the year 2050 that number will increase to around 80%. With global material consumption more than doubling, demands are increasing for other city resources such as energy and power, municipal water, and quality air. The World Bank Group discusses the numerous challenges generated by rapid urbanization for the “nearly 1 billion urban poor” who have limited access to “affordable housing, well-connected transport systems, and other infrastructure, basic services, as well as jobs.”

Many cities around the world are planning to mitigate these issues by looking at ways to make their cities more sustainable and “smarter” through emerging technologies. In 2019, Los Angeles’s Information Technology Agency along with other agencies and departments across the city launched its SmartLA 2028 strategy to “build a smarter, better Los Angeles for those who live, work, and play here.” In Asia, where material consumption is expected to grow the fastest, corporations such as Toyota broke ground in 2021 on their Woven City smart city project and what they’re calling “the world’s first programmable city.” 

The Japan America Society of Southern California partnered with the Aratani Foundation, the National Association of Japan America Societies (NAJAS), and The Embassy of Japan are delighted to present a program as part of the Japan Currents 2022 public affairs series. For this program, we invite experts who are leading the way in the future of urban development from both sides of the Pacific to discuss their visions of how a smarter future may also lead us to a better future.







  • Registration - 4:00 p.m.
  • Welcome
  • Keynote Presentations
  • Panel Discussion + Audience Q&A
  • Networking Reception - 6:30 p.m. 

JASSC Members and Guests: $45     |     Non-members: $60

(Order of Appearance)

Hisakazu Okamura
Professor, Faculty of Urban Innovation,
Asia University;
Regional Information Advisor,
Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications

Dr. Okamura is a Faculty of Urban Innovation at Asia University in Tokyo, Japan. Dr. Okamura has been leading worldwide smart-city projects in his over 32-year career in IBM Japan. Since 2016, he has been teaching smart-city and Big Data at Asia University. Dr. Okamura has been involved in a diverse range of projects - from a small snowy village of only 350 citizens, a large Japanese projects involving $1B 340 MHz Photovoltaic plant, to an overseas project supporting the Mayor of New Orleans. His book, "Smart-city," published in 2011 became the guidebook for smart-city business in Japan. In 2017, International NPO CSR day recognized Dr. Okamura as one of the "50 Most Impactful Smart-City Leaders of the World." His philosophy for smart-city thinking is: "Only healthy businesses can help people and society be sustainable."

Ted Ross
CIO, City of Los Angeles;
General Manager, Information Technology Agency

Mr. Ross is CIO for the City of Los Angeles and General Manager of the Information Technology Agency (ITA). His department of 450 employees delivers enterprise IT services to 48,000 employees across 41 City departments and digital services to over 4 million residents. Appointed by Former Mayor Eric Garcetti in 2015, Mr. Ross has over 21 years of private and public sector technology experience, earning various awards along the way, including #1 Digital City, Top 25 Doer & Dreamer, and CIO of the Year according to LA Business Journal. Mr. Ross has been featured in Fortune Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, and The Economist, as well as, a presenter at many conferences, such as the Andreessen-Horowitz Tech Summit, Milken Institute, and India’s NASSCOM.

Ryan Bates
Regional Officer for Los Angeles
Mitsui USA

Mr. Bates is Mitsui USA’s Regional Officer for Los Angeles, where he supports Mitsui’s diverse business portfolio, which includes investments in the clean energy, emerging technology, real estate, machinery, steel, solar, mobility, plastic and space sectors.  He also serves as a director for Spaceflight, Inc., the premier global satellite launch services provider.

In addition to his Regional Officer role, Mr. Bates acts as Mitsui USA’s Western Region Legal Team Leader, supporting a team of attorneys who manage the legal aspects of Mitsui’s West Coast business development, trading and investment activities.

Eric Phillips
Economic Development Director;
City of Marysville, Ohio

Mr. Phillips has served as the Marysville/Union County Economic Development Director since February 2001.  In this role, he also serves as the Executive Director of the Community Improvement Corporation and the Marysville-Union County Port Authority.   His primary roles are to retain and attract business growth and development and to build consensus between and among businesses, government and the community. 

Mr. Phillips is also involved in regional organizations including the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission – past chair, Mid-Ohio Development Exchange (MODE) Board of Directors – past president, Community Capital Development Corporation Board of Directors, and former Columbus 2020 Board of Directors serving as Secretary.  He also served on the National Rural Economic Developer’s Association (NREDA) Board of Directors and served as Past President. 

Mr. Phillips has played a key role in the development and implementation of the 33 Smart Mobility Corridor.  The 33 SMC has realized over $100M in public and private investments making it one of the most advanced proving grounds for connected and autonomous vehicles.

Jane Macfarlane
(Panel Moderator)
Economic Development Director;
City of Marysville, Ohio

Based in Berkeley, Calif., Dr. Macfarlane is the Director of the Smart Cities and Sustainable Mobility Research Center in the Institute for Transportation Studies at UC Berkeley and an Affiliate Scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She has over 30 years of experience in high-performance computing, data analytics, and geospatial mapping.

Dr. Macfarlane has directed industry research groups, including Chief Scientist for HERE – a leader in geospatial mapping and was the Director of Advanced Technology Planning for OnStar at General Motors – the first at-scale, telematics solution. She holds over 25 patents, primarily in geospatial data analytics.

Thank You to our Generous Program Sponsors

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