World-class roads. Wi-Fi architecture linking hospitals, schools, businesses, super markets, tourism sites and other public institutions.
These are some of the features of what is called a Smart City.
Smart cities offer wide range of services such as public transport service, education, housing, healthcare services, security services, among others using ICT tools.
This has been the desire of governments around the world – using cutting edge technology to provide 21st century infrastructure.
Nigeria is no exception. As the nation steadily urbanizes and increases in population, having the right responses to this trend makes it even more challenging.
It is believed that provision of infrastructure would enhance the development of smart cities and help drive the nation’s extra ordinary potential on the global economic stage through the application of digital technology.
“Our world is becoming more globalised, interconnected and intelligent. The systems and technologies that underpin so much of how the world works are smarter.We live in a time of unprecedented advances in every sector of human endeavour. In the ICT industry of developed economies alone, we are seeing the coming of age of a whole new generation of intelligent systems and technologies, more powerful and accessible than ever before”, says Minister of communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu.
“To transform Nigeria through ICT, we need all states to key into the project, they must get it right from the onset that ICT is the way to go.”
Take Lagos for instance. It is Nigeria’s economic nerve center, and based on UN projections, the most populated in the country. Some have even tagged it “AFRICA’S FIRST EMERGING CITY-STATE”.
Lagos has been fortunate to have technology clusters in Ikeja, Surulere and Yaba. It would appear the state government wants to further build on these gains.
Only a few months ago, the Lagos government unveiled a free public Wi-Fi at the Ndubuisi Kanu Park in Ikeja. The idea is to prepare the state for the demands of the global economy, by providing public access to internet services in designated locations– for free.
“It is consistent with our commitment to make Lagos work for all. Parks and gardens have been established in different parts of the state to provide a condusive environment for recreation and relaxation. The increased patronage of these facilities, which is no longer restricted to festive season, has made it necessary to equip these centres with free Wi-Fi to serve the needs of visitors to these parks,” says Akinwunmi Ambode, the governor of Lagos.
In North-East Nigeria, Gombe state is leveraging on the benefits of technology to boost the revenue base of the state by introducing the Gombe Geographical Information System (GOGIS). It is believed that these and other reforms will help in building smart cities around the state.
As Northern Nigeria expands its economy, the government in Gombe believes the GOGIS initiative will ease issues of land administration to attract the needed investment to its agricultural and solid mineral potentials; ensuring its steady infrastructural growth remains on course.
“The project is being practiced globally now; it is the modern system of land administration which is very effective and efficient. If, for example, government had been generating N20million or N30million in a year, with this project, we are going to generate between N200million and N300million annually,” says Alhaji Shehu Durbi, Gombe State Commissioner for Lands and Survey.
As good as these efforts may be, it is impossible for government alone to fund smart cities. Apparently, it appears that view is gaining support within Nigerian government circles.
“There is no one technology that will overcome the challenge of infrastructure. What it just requires, is partnership among government, the private sector and the academia. And together, the three can begin to put in place the building blocks to have smart cities, including in Nigeria,” says Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyeama.
Mr Miebaka Adoki, the Managing Director, Habitters Smart Cities says there is the need for government to ensure policy sustainability of the policy on smart cities when fully implemented.
According to him, continuity will, it entrenched in the system will assure investors of the security of their investments on the smart city plan.
“A situation where one administration or government official will start a programme and when he leaves office that is the end of that project or programme will not augur well with the smart cities initiative,’’ he opines.
Samanvay Shrivasta, Manager Sales, Bio-Enable Technologies Private Ltd., an ICT company suggests Nigeria must improve infrastructure and power to the actualise the smart city ambition.
“There is no country in the world that has smart city without an efficient and regular supply of power combined with robust infrastructure in place,’’ he said.
There is no doubt that with the right investment, continuous collaboration and expansion, the growth of smart cities will shape, accelerate and sustain Nigeria’s ongoing digital revolution.