Africa: Technology Offers Smart Solutions to Global Urban Challenges

Barcelona — Municipalities globally have to do a balancing act between spearheading rapid industrial revolution and providing adequate service delivery to their multiplying populations. Ironically, the industrial revolution and populations are booming at a time of economic recession, which makes financial budgets a major stumbling block to the towns and cities. It is against this backdrop concepts such as the “Safe City” and “Smart City” have emerged to ensure cities are not hindered in rolling out desired projects to enhance delivery of services.

The Safe City concepts provide ubiquitous network access, convergent command, video cloud and mobile policing to address challenges around urbanisation while the Smart City uses different electronic data collection sensors to supply information used to manage assets and resources efficiently.

Global technology companies have lately invested significantly in such solutions, which are among the highlights of the Smart City Expo World Congress attended by thousands of representatives from government and the private sector in Barcelona, Spain. Some 17 000 professional visitors, 600 exhibitors, 650 cities, more than 500 government officials, industry partners gathered in the Spanish coastal city.

Among the companies upping their investment in technology to promote the Safe City and Smart City solutions is Chinese firm, Huawei Technologies, which has launched its latest innovation called Intelligent Operating Centre (IOC) with a view to assisting world cities, including African governments, to adequately resolve service delivery crises in their towns and cities. The IOC is a cloud-based solution boasting big data that integrates and interconnects information before processing and offering city operation monitoring and cross-agency collaboration. It is anticipated when the solution, which Huawei dubbed “the brain and central nervous system”, is deployed, local municipalities would nip every crisis in the bud.

“Through public and private partnerships, such adoption (Smart City) would enhance service delivery by both towns and cities,” said Huawei Vice President for Government, Public Utility Sector and Enterprise Business Group, Edwin Diender. “We are not only here in Barcelona to connect with industry vendors and technology partners to create ecosystem but to talk to government departments and other stakeholders to ensure mutual understanding of Smart Cities solutions moving forward,” Diender said.

Systems Application Products (SAP), the German firm also with a global presence, is also intensifying the adoption of Smart City with its hyped “City Dashboard” solution. The City Dashboard seeks to address issues of governance, economy, transport, resources and people’s needs. Alejandro Tinoco, SAP Future Cities and Public Safety Industry Business Solutions executive, urged national and municipal authorities to adopt technology to enhance service delivery.

“Cities are not investing in Smart Cities,” he raised concern. “The problem with towns and cities is the ‘wait’ and ‘see’ attitude. Otherwise, these new technology solutions are always good for improving people’s lives through sound service delivery,” Tinoco told CAJ News in an interview. The United Nations (UN) has also endorsed technology solutions to address such concerns as tackle crime, migration (refugee issues), water shortages, unemployment, energy insufficiencies, transport challenges, health, education, security and communication issues, among others.

Paulius Kulikauskas, who heads the global body’s Regular Programme for Technical Co-operation and Human Settlements, said without solutions as the Smart City, authorities would face daunting tasks addressing these problems. “As UN, we encourage co-operation between cities, civil society and technology companies to work together towards improving majority’s lives,” Kulikauskas said.