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African cities get Smart

February 1st, 2016
Africa is moving towards smart city technology in order to enhance the performance and quality of urban services. But, says RAVIN NAIDU of Alcatel Lucent, building a smart city extends beyond just the technology and incorporates ICT innovation too.
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Africa is moving toward Smart City Technology in order to enhance the performance and quality of urban services.  This transformation aims to achieve tangible benefits at municipal, provincial and national levels.  The demand of the inner-city population is influencing the more interconnected approach to city development.  These demands along with rapid metropolitan migration is resulting in a strain on existing transportation and infrastructure networks.  ALE, marketed under the brand Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, a provider of enterprise communications solutions and services, advises that building a Smart City extends beyond the technology, it is about Information and Communication Technology innovation.

Smart Cities make use of digital technologies to improve the functioning of city services.  The main objective is to enhance the administration of urban flows by enabling real time responses to challenges.  Factors such as technological, economic and environmental changes have influenced the movement to ‘smart’ urban growth.

Amsterdam, a leading Smart City is a successful example of the public private partnership focused on using the city as an urban laboratory for the use of new mobility solutions, open data and improved quality of life for all citizens and visitors.  The collaboration has to date supported more than 40 Smart City projects from the development of home energy storage for integration with a smart grid to Smart parking.

People are the focal point of the Smart City concept, however, the model requires the involvement from all parties.  The success of this ideal not only relies on a commitment from government, it also entails the collaboration of the private sector as well as the engagement from citizens.

The most significant benefit of a Smart City is to drive economic development by delivering a high quality life for all. These sustainable advancements aim to improve the basic service provision of electricity and water, as well as offer citizens the ability to easily move within cities across private and public transport.  Smart Cities also set out to offer superior healthcare and education to all citizens by addressing service delivery challenges. The main emphasis of a Smart City is to offer a safe public environment.

Super cities such as Hong Kong, London and New York are at the forefront of this technology with African cities now following. Although it is difficult for African cities to compare, adopting the ideology and technology supporting the Smart Cities concept, we foresee that in the future Africa will be able to compete on a global level.

African cities will not have to endure the high costs associated with the upkeep of legacy infrastructure and systems which is a major advantage of technological adoption. This enables them to start leapfrogging their more advanced peers. With the rise in foreign investment in Africa, great leaps forward are likely to happen in main African technology centres.

* Ravin Naidu, Alcatel Lucent Enterprises Regional Director for Southern Africa.

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