Talking about smart cities

Source: Google

By definition, Smart City (SM) is that city that is efficient and functional such that the human beings residing in it can conveniently satisfy their social, economic, physical and total well-being with less complication in all respect to their living condition with regards to the use of digital elements to improve man’s day-to-day transaction. To that extent, for any city to be considered smart, it must and should have the characteristic features and components of that, which makes it a smart city thereby differentiating it from a Traditional City, i.e. Normal City, where things are done with manual mentality. Any Smart City by design must also have the features of other known city concepts to make it a complete city.

For any city to be considered smart in all ramifications, it must continuously be managed or administered using sustainability concept. An administrative tool defined as “development that meets the needs and aspirations of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their own needs.” What then are features of a smart city? For any city to be considered smart, it must have the following characteristic features: cleanliness, efficient multi-model transport facilities, 24-hour power supply, short-time response to emergency situation, clean water, efficient refuse collection disposal and management, ICT Compliant in all facilities and Services, e-library system, efficient and reliable security system, efficient health and education facilities, affordable housing, smart solutions for all issues, cultural vibrancy, total inclusiveness, preserved functional open spaces, parks, playground, recreational facilities and walkable localities, friendly and cost effective governance, better traffic flow and low pollution, effective well planned environment based on the city’s blue print – Master Plan.

When compared to a Traditional City, there is a marked difference where most of the items listed are not available and where they are available, performance is at very low level or at best operated using crude or manual method thereby resulting in high cost of services. In a Traditional City, detailed information about business environment is still scarce. There is water shortage, dirty environment, high emission, intermittent power outage, unfriendly environment, dependence on one or two mode of transportation resulting in slow moving traffic and several man-hour loss and low life expectancy, diseases resulting from planlessness and environmental decay, high cost of governance and provision of essential facilities and services. Most cities of the developed world are to a large extent smart. In spite of this, government of these countries are not relenting in providing better services that will make life more livable. Thus, people living in better planned cities tend to live better and life expectancy increases over time.

Recently, the government of Lagos State has intensified effort towards making the state more livable by injecting some smart city components into the city. Major roads in the state are lit at night thus improving the social and economic status of Lagos residents. New sanitation laws that will increase cleanliness has been rolled out. Various Master and Model City Plans are available to guide the overall development of the state.

In the area of public transportation, the light rail project is almost completed while new Bus Mass Transit is equally about being re-launched for effective services. Security wise, the state is installing close-circuit Television Camera (CCTV) for 24-hour record of human activities while the Police are being provided with modern security gadgets. Roads are being upgraded throughout the state for ease of interconnectivity. These efforts when fully in operation will no doubt increase the level of the state.

To further make Lagos more livable, the state government may want to work on the Tram Transport System in addition to the Light Rail under construction. Tram and Light Rail Services should be introduced to Oshodi-Sango Axis, Lekki-Epe axis, Ikeja-Ikorodu Axis, Iyana – Ipaja –Ayobo Axis. In addition, the state is advised to collaborate with Federal Government to ensure that the two major ports in Lagos is serviced by train, so that trailers may no longer access the ports to carry imported goods to other part of the country. A Bonded Warehouse may be sited in Isheri/Berger end to be serviced by rail for storage of goods and containers only. From there, owners will be directed to the Bonded Terminal to pick their goods to other locations. This arrangement will drastically reduce the traffic snarl in Apapa and give the enclave a lease of life. For Built Environment Experts, the challenge of raising the bar in city development should be our major concern but Urban Planners must set the pace for the rest to follow. Professionals in their various fields must be up-to-date in ideas to make the necessary impact for the overall benefit of the people. Efforts should be made to lift the status of existing cities from traditional (normal) cities to modern ones i.e. Smart cities through the review of plans with a view to introducing features that will make existing cities to be much more livable. New Estate Schemes or what we call new Towns must now more than ever before be based on Pestel Analysis if our assumptions in the plans are to be able to match today’s realities, in order not to render them obsolete so quickly.

In Pestel Analysis, P stands for political, E for Economic, S for Social, T for Technology, E for Environmental and L for Legal. In essence, Pestel Analysis is saying that, all plans made must take into consideration political issues that may stand in the way of Plans made, that all plans must satisfy economic issues, that our plans if tested must be able to address social issues, that our plans must satisfy Technological issues that may arise, that plans when measured on environmental issues should be able to stand the test of time, and that our plans must take into consideration legal issues that may stand in its way when it comes to implementation.

However, Living in a smart city has some challenges. For instance, the level of Education or literacy level of the residents could be a major challenge. You can imagine a situation where an illiterate who only needs to press just a button is shown in different colours denoting different use of facility and cannot differentiate between what each of the colour represents. A country with high level of illiteracy may find it difficult to adjust to a digital life that is associated with a Smart City. Most Nigerian drivers are unable to read and understand traffic signs. This explains the high accident rate. Obeying simple traffic light is problems for some drivers. In designing a safe city plan, therefore, urban designers must endeavour to work with ICT professional with a view to dealing with issues of the appropriate location and sitting of digital elements. It is still better in today’s twenty-first century to live a better life where digital services have a tremendous effect in shaping the way we live, work and play thereby increasing life expectancy level.

Solola is with Lagos State Physical Planning Permit Authority.

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