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How to make cities smart – and sustainable

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When building sustainable cities, it is vital to first understand the difference between a smart city and a sustainable city, says MARK WALKER, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey.

According to Mark Walker, associate vice-president of IDC sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East and Turkey, a smart city can be defined as a city that is completely connected and where that connectivity is used to enhance communication, security, the movement and monitoring of people and interdepartmental communications to name a few. “It’s basically the Internet of Things as applied to a city,” he says. A sustainable city, on the other hand, implies that these elements are in place, that it continues and is not a once-off project.

 “The problem with the consequent smart city is that it requires many systems to be working together and often what happens is that ‘smart parts’ are implemented as point-in-time projects and they’re not sustainable,” says Walker. “A sustainable smart city is where the parts are ‘smart’, integrated and they continue working.”

He cites Nairobi as an example, where there is a smart city concept specifically around traffic management, but because it is not integrated with other parts of the city, it is not as effective as it could be, making the sustainability of the system questionable.

An integrated approach is crucial

For better understanding, Walker provides the example of the electricity billing process. “Similarly, when a city provides electricity to citizens, there are multiple players involved in the transaction. It is the electricity supplier, the consumer and the municipality involved. In a smart city, all the billing is connected and the consumption patterns are understood. So, if a person misses a payment, for instance, but their supply has been constant over time, the city can see that question why they haven’t paid and relate that back to consumption,” Walker says. He adds that active metering services would allow municipalities to be a lot more precise in terms of provisioning and managing electricity, enabling them to also detect fraud. “If people are compromising their meter to get free electricity, the city can detect major discrepancies in consumption. That’s an example of a smart city solution, but if there isn’t integration between the billing department at the municipality and the supplier, it can’t happen.”

Walker believes that while there is some level of awareness and understanding of the value of a smart city, poor execution and implementation is standing in the way of it becoming a reality, with the two biggest pitfalls being budget and political will. He says that Gauteng came close with the 2010 Soccer World Cup, but only on the aspect of security. “That was an example, to a degree, of how a smart city can work. There was an understanding of the ticket sales, where the people would be moving from time to time, which enabled the synchronisation of traffic flow and availability of services. This was as a result of coordination between government and the citizen and also with enterprise and making that work together. So, there’s an understanding of smart cities, but it is also limited. People get the picture and they like the picture, but the execution and the implementation are still a long way off.”

It’s a full-time responsibility

While both public and private sector have a role to play, solid planning is crucial to successful smart city implementation. “Ideally, it would be government-led or city-led, but that should be a specific responsibility and not a sub responsibility. It’s not a case of it just being a sub-set of the CIO or the City Manager’s responsibilities. There has to be a person with serious decision-making power to drive the project and this person has to be able to work across various functions within the city to ensure all the elements are brought together from ICT to logistics, from process to people. A smart city is a much broader discussion than just technology.”

With South Africa already facing service delivery protests on a regular basis, smart cities could alleviate many of the challenges and improve citizen satisfaction. “Government service delivery will immediately be improved, without a doubt,” says Walker. “The problem is that there is a massive degree of transparency that comes with a smart city and government departments or municipalities might not necessarily be ready for that level of transparency.”

Moving beyond just the conversation

From a technology vendor perspective, the conversation around smart cities has started, but it is still at the very first stages of promotion, advertising what it is and defining smart cities. We are still at the start of the education phase. “We haven’t even moved into the prioritisation and execution phases yet. There is also the risk that smart cities can become like cloud and big data, just another ICT hype cycle.”

Walker believes that the country is now at a point where it must define what smart cities are, what benefits they can bring to both local government and citizens and how to then prioritise and implement the right solutions to derive the most benefit from the investment. “The final step is then to determine how you coordinate all the priorities to ensure you deliver a smart city, that you can afford, implement and sustain,” he says.

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Android Go puts reliable smartphones in budget pockets

Nokia, Vodacom and Huawei have all launched entry-level smartphones running the Android Go edition, and all deliver a smooth experience, writes BRYAN TURNER.

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Three new and notable Android Go smartphones have recently hit the market, namely the Nokia 1, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 and the Huawei Y3 (2018). These phones run one of the most basic versions of Android while still delivering a fairly smooth user experience.

Historically, consumers purchasing smartphones in the budget bracket would have a hit-and-miss experience with processing speed, smoothness of user interface, and app stability. The Google-supported Android Go edition operating system optimises the user experience by stripping out non-important visual effects to speed up the phone. Thish allows for more memory to be used by apps. 

Google also ensures that all smartphones running Android Go will receive feature and security updates as they are released by Google. This is a major selling point for these smartphones, as users of this smartphone will always be running the latest software, with virtually no manufacturer bloatware.

Vodafone Smart Kicka 4

At the lowest entry-level, the Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performs well as a communicator for emails and WhatsApp messages. The 4” screen represents a step up for entry-level Android phones, which were previously standardised at 3.5”.

The display is bright and very responsive, while the limited screen real estate leaves the navigation keys off the screen as touch buttons. It uses 3G connectivity, which might seem like an outdated technology, but is good enough to stream SD videos and music. Vodacom has also thrown in some data gifts if the smartphone is activated before the end of September 2018. 

Its camera functionalities might be a slight let down for the aspirant Instagrammer, with a 2MP rear flash camera and a 0.3MP selfie snapper. Speed wise, the keyboard pops up quickly, which is a huge improvement from the Smart Kicka 3. However, this phone will not play well with graphics-intensive games. 

Nokia 1

Next up is the Nokia 1, which adds a much better 5MP camera, improved battery life and a bigger 4.5” screen. It supports LTE, which allows this smartphone to download and upload at the speed of flagships. It also sports the Nokia brand name, which many consumers trust.

Although the front camera is 2MP, the quality is extremely grainy, even with good lighting. This disqualifies this smartphone for the social media selfie snapper, but the 5MP rear camera will work for the landscape and portrait photographer. 

The screen also redeems this smartphone, providing a display which represents colours truly and has great viewing angles. Xpress-on back covers allows the use of interchangeable, multi-coloured back covers, which has proven to be a successful sales point for mid-range smartphones in the past. 

Huawei Y3 (2018)

The most capable of the Android Go edition competitors, the Huawei Y3 (2018) packs an even bigger screen at 5”, as well as an improved 8MP rear camera and HD video recording. The screen is the brightest and most vibrant of the three smartphones, but seems to be calibrated to show colours a little more saturated than they actually are. 

Nevertheless, the camera outperforms the other smartphones with good colour replication and great selfie capabilities via the 2MP front camera – far superior to the Nokia 1 despite the same spec. LTE also comes standard with this smartphone and Vodacom throws in 4G/LTE data goodies until the end of September 2018. The battery, however, is not removable and may only be replaced by a warranty technician.

Comparing the 3

All three smartphones have removable back covers, which provide access to the battery, SIM card and SD card slots. The smartphones have Micro USB ports on the bottom with headphone jacks on the top. The built-in speakers all performed well, with the Y3 (2018) housing an exceptionally loud built-in speaker. 

Although all at different price points, all three phones remain similar in performance and speed. The differentiators are apparent in the components, like camera quality and screen quality. It would be fair to rank the quality of the camera and battery life by respective market prices. The Vodafone Smart Kicka 4 performed well, for its R399 retail price. The Nokia 1, on the other hand, lags quite a bit in features when compared to the Huawei Y3 (2018), bwith oth retailing at R999.

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SA gets digital archive

As the world entered the centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth on Mandela Day, 18 July 2018, South Africa celebrated the launch of a digital living archive. 

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The southafrica.co.za  site carries content about the country’s collective heritage in South Africa’s eleven official languages.

Designed as a nation building,  educational and brand promotion web based tool, the free-to-view platform features award-winning photographic and written content by leading South African photographers, authors, academics and photojournalists.

The emphasis is on quality, credible, factual content that celebrates a collective heritage in terms of the following: Cultural Heritage; Natural Heritage; Education; History; Agriculture; Industry; Mining; and Travel.

At the same time as reflecting on the nation’s history, southafrica.co.za celebrates South Africa’s natural, cultural and economic assets so that the youth can learn about their nation in their home language.

Southafrica.co.za Founder and CEO Hans Gerrizen conceptualised southafrica.co.za as a means for youth and communities from outlying areas to benefit from the digital age in terms of the web tool’s empowering educational component.

“We can only stand to deepen our collective experience of democracy and become a more forward planning nation if we know facts about our nation’s past and present in everyone’s home language,” he says.

Southafrica.co.za, with sister company Siyabona Africa, is the organiser and sponsor of the Mandela: 100 Moments photographic exhibition that runs until 30 September at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront-based Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.  The 3-month exhibition, which runs daily from 08h00 until 15h00, is showcasing one hundred iconic Nelson Mandela images taken by veteran South African photojournalist and self-taught lensman Peter Magubane.

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