One of the buzzwords of the digital age is the word “smart”. Smart-cities, Smart-phones, Smart-TVs, Smart-homes are words we hear ever so often.
All smart things connect to the Internet of Things (IOT), which is simply a system of devices which are connected to the internet and interacting with each other. While doing this, the devices can make ‘smart’ decisions and adapt behavior based on what information they receive.
A Smart City is one which uses technology to optimize infrastructure, manages the city more efficiently for its populace, and improves the quality of life. There are a great number of benefits to get from the Smart City and depending on how ‘smart’ one wants a city to be, it is not that difficult to achieve. As individuals, we are already operating with Smart Devices and are constantly sending or receiving information. Like never before, the last decade has proven how technology can provide solutions for daily problems. The most exciting discovery being that various technologies solve specific problems regardless of a country’s level of development.
We’ve seen Uber help greatly in solving transportation problems. While Uber itself does not own a single vehicle, the platform has created a clever model to solve transportation problems using an app. Remember the advent of Facebook? Which was created by Mark Zuckerberg and his friends to solve a problem: connecting with people in their University. Today, Facebook is one of the top technology & social media companies which has acquired other companies to deepen its tentacles in the area of connections, networking and data acquisition.
Cities around the world have similar problems, regardless of their level of development. The difference however, is that more developed cities have found ways to solve their problems which presents the question; would creating Smart Cities solve the problems experienced in Lagos and Nigeria at large?
Nigeria’s population of about 200 million people is 10 times that of an average African country. Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria, is home to more than 20 million people which is estimated to grow by more than 100 million by the turn of the century. It is clear Nigerian cities are growing at an exponential rate. There is room for more cities to be created based on the growing population and one of the most efficient ways to solve the problems which come with such a rapidly growing population would be to create Smart Cities.
For us to achieve this, there are two options. We can either ‘upgrade’ our current cities to become Smart Cities or create new cities to be ‘Smart’ from the start. There are different levels of ‘Smart’ cities which some experts have grouped into Tiers. Tier 1 can be considered the most basic which most developing countries like ours can easily adapt. To solve traffic problems, congestion sensors can be used to help the government make better decisions on how to reduce traffic. The sensors can also control traffic lights so that traffic is better managed at peak and off-peak times. Traffic cameras can be used to detect those who break traffic laws and fine them accordingly, which will lead to less people breaking traffic laws. Surveillance and tracking can also help solve crime problems.
Energy can be saved using the Smart City model where sensor monitors can control lighting, temperature and more. Alternative sources of power are already being considered to power up rural and urban areas. Smart grids can also be used to determine and analyze energy consumption for better planning. To solve waste problems for instance, Singapore and South Korea are already using Smart Waste Management systems that convert waste to useful energy which powers buildings, homes and more. Considering our power problem, imagine if we could power our cities up with waste.
This has already begun on a basic level, just a few weeks ago, the Lagos State Government decided to change the tolling system by introducing a cashless policy. I must admit, I doubted this new policy would be effective but it has, as traffic at toll booths have dramatically reduced. This is just a step in the direction of using basic technology to solve traffic problems.
The possibilities are endless and exciting. The success of smart cities require major collaboration between the government and private sector companies. Funding options such as, Public Private Partnerships, Citizens paying for funding some aspects, Public and/or Private funding as well as partnering with the government in making these changes, is a long-term win.
The future belongs to those who solve problems, and with the increasing rate of digital-led growth, a Smart Nigeria is inevitable. The only question for you is; are you willing to be a facilitator of Nigeria’s inevitable Smart Cities?
Foluso Gbadamosi is a Business and Technology Professional who is currently the Executive Director, Junior Achievement Nigeria. She views technology as a catalyst for personal, business & national development and is very involved in building the technology ecosystem in Nigeria and Africa at large. She is an Executive Council member of Women in Business, Management & Public Service (WIMBIZ). She also serves on the Board of Directors of Swift Networks, Cousant Technologies, KudaBank, the Advisory Board of Zest Concierge Services and Skool Media.