Thursday 6 May 2021
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Smart cities: Namibia shouldn’t be left out

Lameck Mbangula Amugongo

Lameck Mbangula Amugongo

Today, cities across the world are faced with numerous challenges, which put a lot of pressure on city resources. Hence, the need for cities to address challenges they are facing in a smart, efficient and effective manner. The smart city concept is increasingly becoming a global phenomenon, with more cities rapidly harnessing the power of information and communications technology (ICT) and other forms of technologies to improve quality of life, service delivery and develop sustainable solutions to help cities overcome challenges they are facing. By managing cities intelligently it is anticipated that cities will     efficiently and effectively manage scarce city resources, which are being constrained by the massive urban migration.
Today, it is estimated that about 54% of the world’s 7 billion people live in cities or urban areas. World over, the population living in cities is anticipated to grow by 2.5 Billion people in 2050. This rapid growth of cities has pose numerous challenges; traffic congestions, air pollution, global warming, deficiency of resources and insufficiencies, failing and aging     infrastructure are some of the problems facing cities. Furthermore, due to     economic turmoil, cities need to     remain competitive, attracting the best talents and skilled force. Thus, they need to be innovative in the way they deliver services and operate.
Today’s rapid urbanisation is clear evidence that cities are the focal points of economies, playing a     significant role not only in Namibia but world-over. Furthermore, majority of the people want to live in cities because of the opportunities and the quality of life they present. However, today’s cities are faced with huge     challenges, hence they need to become more creative and innovative in order to remain competitive and to better the lives of their citizens. To help cities overcome challenges such as global warming, scarce resources, and urbanisation, the concept of smart city was adopted. A smart city refers to a city that applies the use of ICT to improve quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to effectively and actively engages with citizens.
The above definition is a little bias as it puts too much emphasis on technology and might imply that without ICT a city cannot be smart. The smartness of a city cannot only be determined nor defined by technology because a city can have all the latest technologies but has an excess waste, which is not converted or used in a sustainable way. So to simplify the definition, a city is smart when it is characterised by a high level of mobility
allowing citizens, information, wealth, and energy to flow together easily.
The concept of smart cities is not relatively new; it has been around for quite some time. However, the notion of smart has been for the past years synonymous with the developed and wealthy cities in the Western world, where innovative solutions relying on hi-tech are solving daily challenges. Nevertheless, smart cities is not about technology dependent solutions but efficient solutions driving sustainable future; affluence, inclusive economic growth, jobs and quality of life.
Nevertheless, rapid technological advancement aided by the         unprecedented exploding amounts of data, present opportunities and powerful tools for cities to leverage on the massive amount of data, by turning the data into useful solutions that provide valuable information and know how. Cities can also open up their datasets (a collection of related data) to the public, therefore enabling innovators and entrepreneurs to develop solutions that make use of city data to deliver better services as well as to create enterprises which in return create jobs.
Today, technology has become ubiquitous enabling the Internet of Everything (IoE), which connects people, data, sensors and things. This interconnected devices are collecting enormous amount of data, if efficiently analysed and used, opportunities are endless. Furthermore, municipalities
are increasingly embracing and adopting open data strategies, availing more public data they have about city parking, bus stops, planning and fire services. For citizens to visualise into applications and, or solutions that     enhance service delivery and information that keep citizens informed.
Smart cities are not just about     technologies but also about informed-
smart citizens, who are identified as critical for smart cities.
Today, the value and potential of smart cities is evident. Multinationals like Cisco and IBM have recognised this value, hence, they partnered up with cities across the world such as Barcelona, Antwerp, Rio de Janeiro, Amsterdam, Boston and many others to envision the future of cities and help cities efficiently and effectively manage their resources. Although, most smart city initiatives are in     developed nations because of the
advanced technology in those     nations, Africa, South America and Asia are surely catching up with initiatives in India, South Africa and other countries. Recently, the city of Johannesburg has also signed an agreement with IBM to implement a road map for a smarter Johannesburg to enable the city overcome numerous challenges such as insufficient     resources and change the crime     perception drowning the city.
Smart cities have not just become the future of cities but the present-day of cities and a new way of living. However, critics claim that smart cities will leave out those who are in most dire need of what they are offering. This is primarily because poor people may not be in a position to afford to live in these new smart cities and this will prevent them from enjoying this great infrastructure. What smart city mean to ordinary men and women, is a question asked by many. To answer this question, Rio de Janeiro with a long history of crime and flash floods is a best practical example of how technologies has been implored to help city inhabitants by forecasting disasters, coordinating traffic crises and aiding police to combat crime
Like many other cities across the world, Windhoek’s population is posed to increase tremendously in the coming years, and posed to reach 1 million inhabitants by 2040. This growing population requires a much deeper understanding of the notion of smart city. Therefore, the city of Windhoek needs to find better ways to manage city resources. Although, Windhoek is not at present a smart city, it has the right conditions and well positioned to leap frog; transform into a smart city because of its good network coverage and ICT     infrastructure.
In pursuit to seek solutions to improve public transportation, the City of Windhoek (CoW) supported by the German cooperation GIZ         (Deutsche Gelleschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) through the MoveWindhoek project is reaching out to citizens for feedback and solutions through Facebook and other social media platforms. Moreover a 20-year plan was adopted to improve public transportation in Windhoek and the Surrounding areas. However, it’s not big plans that will improve mobility within our cities , towns and villages but small initiatives such changing our mindsets about owning cars, ride sharing and many other initiatives to reduce the number of cars on our roads.

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