Watch this Video by VINCI Energies to actually see what a smart city is.
The definition of a smart city by Director of Sales of Ruckus Wireless sub-Saharan Africa, Riaan Graham, is quite complete : “A smart city can be defined as a vision to integrate multiple Information Communication Technology and Internet of Things solutions to manage the assets of a city. A true smart city is one that is focused on better services delivery, improved municipal services, infrastructure enhancement and utilising real time monitoring systems for the betterment of all citizens.”
In a nutshell, smart cities integrate information and communication environment-friendly technology to infrastructures of water, electricity, gases, transport, etc. in a secured way to improve citizens’ comfort. Across Africa, applications are slowly transforming cities into smart cities. In Morocco for example, an app called Ville Propre (Clean City) transforms each smartphone into a reporting, claiming, and geolocating tool to collect urban trash.
Through the app, users spotting uncollected trash can report it to public authorities by taking a picture of it and sharing it on the platform. With geolocation, a path is drawn up to assist concerned authorities. When the trash is removed, a notification is sent to the user to update him and the picture is removed. If the trash is not collected, the picture stays on the platform.
In 2015, the government of Uganda launched the eCitizen Portal allowing online access to services such as eTax, visa, business registration, trading license registration and social security statements among others. The goal is to enhance government service delivery to citizens and residents and reduce time and costs to citizens in accessing these services. It is also a way to increase efficiency in the provision of public service to citizens.
Smart initiatives change the way residents interact with urban issues and the way they voice out their concerns about services. In Mali, the application Mon Elu (My Elected Representative) allows citizens to converse directly with elected representatives. They can share concerns, propose solutions to problems they identified or ask for explanation about anything they do not agree with or did not understand. Smart cities leverage on tech and use the data generated by citizens to optimise resources.
Ville Propre and Mon Elu are applications from the private sector. The first one was founded by two engineers-developers, Mouhsin Bour Qaiba and Mostapha El Alaoui, and a designer, Mustapha Amraoui. Mon Elu is by Tuwindi, a non profit initiated by Tidiani Togola. The creation of platforms providing smart services to citizens is not limited to the public sector. The private sector has to be commited too. But the part to be played by public sector is bigger because for citizens to benefit from smart services, they have to be equipped with a good, stable and affordable internet connection. More Wi-Fi points have to be introduced across cities and communities. Every household and every citizen have to have access to the Internet.
Smart initiatives are not designed to contribute to physically isolate citizens as it is feared with the use of social media and the Internet in general. Connected third locations, smart houses and digital hubs are created in several countries of the continent for that reason among others. In Senegal for example, Teranga Lab, La Fabrique Citoyenne (Teranga Lab the Citizen Factory) is a digital third location in Rufisque, Senegal, where youth come together to reflect on digital and non digital solutions to solve problems faced by their community. The lab has been created by Alexandre Gubert Lette, a young Senegalese journalist and activist.
From general observation, it seems the private sector is more active than the public sector when it comes to smart solutions, so we have a question: do you think smart city development may contribute to the retreat of the public sector and the privatization of urban services and spaces ? Tell us in the comment box what you think!
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