HomeRegional NewsAfricaOp-Ed: Smart cities are needed now, highlights from WEF

Op-Ed: Smart cities are needed now, highlights from WEF

The 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa, which took place in Cape Town for its 28th meeting, focused on ‘Shaping inclusive growth and shared futures in the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR)’.

“Central to this 4IR growth is the rise of smart cities that will be able to tap into enormous computing power, driven by integration of information and collaborative partnerships to enhance their liveability, workability and sustainability,” explains Barry Bredenkamp, general manager energy efficiency for the South African National Energy Development Institute (SANEDI).

This year’s ICT Gartner Hype Cycle report, released in August, says smart city frameworks, the Internet of things (IoT) and low earth orbit satellite systems are the three technologies that will transform business in Africa within 10 years. It points out smart cities have an intelligent urban ecosystem that is designed to improve citizens’ lives, stimulate the economy and protect the environment.

Smart city frameworks will have a transformational business impact in the next two to five years, as cities in Africa apply diverse strategies to accelerate the development of smart city frameworks based on traffic, social and safety issues

Bredenkamp noted: “As we know cities consume the bulk of the world’s energy and generate massive CO₂ emissions. In Africa, this is exacerbated by the constant rural migration to cities in search of jobs, particularly as climate change renders many areas untenable. It is estimated that at present 40% of Africa’s population live in cities and this number is expected to increase to 50% by the mid-2030s.”

What is needed is technology that enables transportation, water and sanitation, power supply, ICT infrastructure and other services to be able to collect, communicate and analyse information to understand what is happening now and what might happen next. Founded on ‘green’ technology, these are fuelled by the availability of renewable energy technology and integrated sensory information, providing insights and control oversupply and demand.

In 2016, the Smart Cities Council of India was already positing the extension of the concept of a smart ‘city’ to include metropolitan regions, clusters of cities, collection of nearby towns or regional coalitions, where municipalities could take a neighbourhood-by-neighbourhood approach to modernisation.

“In his SONA, President Cyril Ramaphosa talked of a dream of a South Africa where… The city we build must demonstrate democratic spatial planning; it must also be a smart city and illustrate that we are in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“SANEDI is ready to provide interventions and advice at the municipal and urban levels in South Africa, where there are established local governance structures. However, what is key to a smart city is an uninterrupted power supply, as everything relies on constant data transfer,” Bredenkamp concluded.

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