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Africa and smart cities

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Last year, I wrote about smart cities – made possible by the Internet Of Things (IOT) and big data technologies that are becoming embedded in our daily lives. To recap – big data is the harvesting and analysing of data to define and focus on efficiencies, not just in business, but also in our daily lives.
IOT is seeing the deployment of more and more intelligent, connected, devices in every day tools – such as cars, household appliances and the like. This allows more data to be collected and analysed and better inform business decisions. Smart cities are using this technology to now manage public utilities such as water, power and sewer systems, as well as manage healthcare delivery, traffic flow, safety at public events and urban crime. I made a plea for regulatory and city authorities to explore this area with a view to better managing and improving the quality of life in our cities.
Malawi cities are in dire need of not just massive repairs to infrastructure (an example being Blantyre’s drainage system and Lilongwe’s recent issues with drinking water being infected by raw sewage), but also to expand on the services required to meet the growing urban populations.
Well, I am glad that it appears that some African countries are taking this initiative seriously. Rwanda currently has an initiative – called the Smart Coty Alliance where 20 joined countries have made technology part of their national development plans for their cities. Here are some projects that are already in place.
Konza City, in Kenya, is expected to become the African version of Silicon Valley. It is planned that the city will gather data from smart devices and sensors embedded in places such as roadways and buildings, allowing traffic to be monitored in ways that optimise traffic flows.
Johannesburg in SA is aiming to be smart by 2040, Tshwane City planned for 15 years later, and Cape Town is now focussing on four main issues – digital infrastructure, digital inclusion, e-government and digital economy. Cape Town has already implemented remote utilities meter reading, enabling the government to analyse electronically captured consumption data and use it to plan how and where to invest new resources across the city.
Other cities include Ghana’s Hope City and Lagos – with its Eko Atlantic project. Schneider Electric, a French energy management and automation company is investing heavily in this technology with public/private projects currently in Egypt and South Africa. The prediction is that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in smart cities.
By 2030, at least six of the world’s megacities – a population in excess of 10 million people – will be located in Africa. Schneider Electric have created an online interactive graphic that makes predictions on smart cities.
These predictions are amazing, and include flying taxies, talking to buildings to control light and temperature by 2040,and takeaway food will be delivered by drones by 2050. Amazing, no? It is hard not to be excited by the times we live in – and also, quite a bit frustrated at the slowness of relevant authorities to act in a timely and informed manner to harness benefits for Malawi and Malawians.
On another note, 15 out of the 19 member states of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) have recently met in Lusaka and agreed to remove roaming charges on cross-border mobile phone calls to make communication in the region more affordable. If, and when, implemented, this will mean citizens from within the Comesa region will pay standard domestic rates for cross-border calls and text messages.
This should help the rural clients in Malawi, where the 2015 ITU report has found that Malawians on average use more than US$12 on airtime a month, which is more than half of what an ordinary Malawian earns per month.

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