Smart cities are about survival

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Global urbanisation is taking place at a high rate. By 2050, 70% of the world will be urbanised. By 2050, eight out of 10 South Africans will be living in one of the country’s cities.

Therefore, becoming a smart city is not only an opportunity, but providing citizens with all their digitalneeds and services is the city’s form of survival.

This is according to Jonas Bogoshi, country manager of EMC Southern Africa, speaking at the Smart Cities Update organised by EMC in partnership with IDC last week. Bogoshi explained that without digital services in the form of smart initiatives, South African citizens can choose to relocate to other cities around the world.

“Being a smart city means you have a model of open data that you can manage in a secure way to share with citizens and companies in your area, and also be able to operate in an innovative and agile way, while predictively being able to spot new opportunities in the city.

“Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way we live, learn, play and work. The four trends that affect digitisation are mobility, cloud computing, social media and big data,” he pointed out.

Every aspect of our lives is digitised, he continued, and the ecosystem of connected things in a smart city is serving a community of digital citizens who are different from those of the past because they expect to be connected to the Internet around the clock.

Cities’ vision

Mark Walker, regional director of Africa and director of insights and vertical industries META at IDC, in his smart cities presentation, said the three pillars which determine the success of a smart city are: the public sector, the private sector and the public. These three have to consistently work together.

“In SA, we have already taken the necessary steps towards smart cities and we have the right technologies, some of which have already been implemented in Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Western Cape and Durban. Each of these areas are well developed in terms of what their smart city vision should be.

“So we are getting there; how fast we are moving is another question. At the moment in SA, we need to find a constant balance between skills such as human capital, intellectual assets and natural resources as this is where our biggest challenges lie in building smart cities,” he asserted.

Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way we live, learn, play and work, says Jonas Bogoshi, country manager of EMC Southern Africa.

Digital transformation is fundamentally changing the way we live, learn, play and work, says Jonas Bogoshi, country manager of EMC Southern Africa.

Bogoshi noted the cities have been able to provide high-speed Internet connection while establishing other industries that were never thought of.

“Johannesburg has put in place 940km of fibre while Durban has placed 700km and Cape Town currently has 350km of fibre, which it intends to expand to 900km by the end of 2016. In addition to investing in fibre-optic cables, South African cities are also providing WiFi hotspots enabling residents, visitors and businesses to gain free access to Internet connectivity.

“Johannesburg plans to roll out 1 000 WiFi hotspots in selected areas across the city by the end of 2016. Tshwane, through Project Isizwe, has over 780 free WiFi hotspots and the network has been accessed by over 1.4 million devices since its inception in 2015,” he revealed.

Western Cape launched 50 public free WiFi hotspots in a number of communities and aims to launch 384 hotspots in strategic locations across the province by the end of the 2017/2018 financial year, explained Bogoshi.

Walker noted the business value that a smart city will add speaks to the economic vision of the city which will flow into the social outcomes of the smart city, and these will transmit across the entire ecosystem. He gave a synopsis of the five stages of a smart city:

“Stage one is when a lot of the technological initiatives we see are at departmental level rather than provincial or nationwide level. These are usually labelled smart city initiatives but they are typically project-based and their scope is constrained by a limited budget.

“SA is currently in stage two, which is very much about seeking funding and the right stakeholder partnerships. At this stage, the developers realise the projects are bigger than themselves and they have to establish strong stakeholder relations in order to execute their vision, because there will be higher need for capital. If SA had a better vision and a better plan to facilitate better partnerships which can attract capital, we would be able to move forward at a quicker pace.”

Stage three, observed Walker, is about repeatable processes because the partnerships will already be there, so taking advantage of the available opportunities is vital. Stage four consists of managed governance and processes. Cities like Singapore and Barcelona are good examples of stage four, where smart city initiatives are used to make tourists happy.

“Stage five is the fully optimised phase where everything works, the digital processes are fine, there is constant improvement of the city and service delivery becomes a competitive advantage. At the moment, there are no places in the world where everything is fully optimised,” he elaborated.

Bogoshi noted another important project under way is the energy project, with examples in Johannesburg and the Western Cape.

“South Africa’s cities are taking steps to optimise their power consumption by deploying smart meters. By giving households access to information on their power consumption, cities will be able to engage with residents to make a collective effort to sustain power accessibility. Johannesburg, for instance, has rolled out 92 000 smart meters and is expected to deploy as many as 250 000 meters by the end of 2016.”

A smart city requires infrastructure that is robust, agile, scalable and secure, and smart cities must be able to gather as much data as possible on certain aspects of the city and its people. They must be able to take that data, infuse it and act on it in real-time, concluded Bogoshi.

 

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