WITH over half the world’s population currently living in urban metropoles and an estimated three million people moving into cities every week, it’s safe to say that the concept of smart cities is becoming more crucial than ever, even for Namibia and its prime Cities.
This is not only to accommodate the immense influx of new citizens, but also to contribute in a very meaningful way to the populations that live in these vast urban spaces.
The definition of smart cities is wide – and is very case-specific. However, one shared characteristic is that they solve urban problems through the advanced interplay of information, communications technology (ICT) and data analysis.
For the City of Windhoek, it is delightful that the City’s strategic plan for the period 2017 – 2022 is cognisant of making Windhoek a smart and caring city by the year 2022 such that the City’s Information Communication Technology (ICT) footprint has been elevated to the corporate level.
Also, key projects have been identified and focus amplified on improved business systems, business continuity and the implementation of a paperless business environment. These initiatives are aimed at improving customer service which now receives primary attention by way of rendering simpler, faster, friendlier, efficient and meaningful service to all customers.
On a broader level, it is worth noting that this view, which should be adopted by other cities also needs ICT providers that bring more than just technical and technology skills to the table, but also offer industry-related knowledge, strategic planning and management capabilities to be able to coordinate and integrate systems between service providers. For example, a system that brings together traffic and security data on a single hosted platform will enable citizens to avoid congested areas and shorten commuting times on a daily basis.
With a technological shift in urban planning comes the potential for the betterment of government services like healthcare and education.
From an international perspective, a smart, secure outlook on urban development attracts prospective global investors and businesses to inject resources into the continent.
Multinational ICT firm Huawei, for example, has launched an N$20.3billion fund to help fuel the building of smart city infrastructure in Africa. This financing programme which is also open for Namibia, will assist in laying the groundwork so that highly useful, but bandwidth-intensive tools – such as the internet of things (IoT) and intelligent video surveillance – can be used to gather information and enhance the speed and efficiency of decision-making in Africa’s urban centres.
Without doubt, Namibian cities are facing rapidly changing challenges. From severe water shortages to immense waste pollution and road congestion, a high degree of complexity has emerged over the last couple of decades to challenge city managers and planners.
Today, we are forced to think differently and consider a more managed, integrated and connected approach that allows for real-time responses to challenges.
A smart city, continually processing big data from a variety of sources, will be better equipped to deal with change than one with a simple traditional and transactional relationship with its citizens.
It all starts with reliable, high-speed and high-capacity data connectivity – connecting citizens with the state, connecting data with ICT systems, and connecting the city to smart solutions to improve the lives of all.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015