The importance of the concept of smart cities was demonstrated by the Public Sector ICT Forum with standing room only at the Protea Hotel, Fire and Ice in Pretoria, last week.
Mark Walker, associate VP and principal consultant, IDC Sub-Saharan Africa, stated that trusting the technology is key to the successful implementation of a smart city. He highlighted three predictions for the future.
By 2022, he noted, 50% of national governments will have meaningful open data platforms for at least one sector of government or its economy, allowing for service improvements, innovation and transparency. They will deploy industry practices like ‘technology business management' to quantify acquisitions, transitioning from purchasing hardware to software outcomes. Then artificial intelligence will be deployed by 60% of national governments by 2023 for data centre management, service and information accuracy, and improved constituent interactions.
Lawrence Boya, director of the smart city unit at the City of Johannesburg (COJ), said: "Cities in general are faced with a number of challenges and the COJ is not immune to this reality."
According to Boya, there is no single universal definition of what a smart city actually is. Each city that wants to be a smart city focuses on what its priorities are at a given time. The COJ's definition emphasises a city that governs through technologically enhanced engagement with its citizens; makes decisions using digitally enhanced platforms; an inclusive city that provides universal access to Internet connectivity; and a city that uses digital technology innovation to enhance service delivery and empower its citizens.
The mandate of the smart city unit, he said, is to provide strategic and operational leadership of the COJ's Smart City Programme so it can achieve its objectives. The COJ "harvests its knowledge and best practice from within staff and from external resources," he added. "This will enable the establishment of institutional innovation solutions to challenges and opportunities."
Dr Xolani Ngobese, inter-governmental delivery contracting advisor at the National Department of Human Settlements, highlighted how cities in the fourth industrial revolution can overcome energy demand and the evolution of digital inclusion for smart cities.
"Transforming South African cities into smart cities is possible through analysing interventions in various cities around the world and best practices. Key, though, is assessing what smart cities have done to meet energy demand and what direction top cities in the rest of the world are taking in meeting rising energy demand."
Cyril Baloyi, group CTO for the City of Johannesburg, wrapped up the event by looking at the impact of digitisation on citizen-centricity, touching on issues such as integrated transport, safety and security, e-procurement and electronic bills.
"Both global and national trends and drivers inform customer needs at the individual, societal, economic and technology level. Opportunities arise where the application and implementation of smart city strategies can help respond to these needs.
"Combined with (inter)national cooperation via public-private partnerships, real citizen participation in integrated service design, integrated real-time city operation optimisations and open data and crowd sourcing initiatives, a smart city will result in a self-sustaining ecosystem where value and jobs will be created," he concluded.