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Quest for smart cities

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Smart cities are no longer just a consideration, but are now a global necessity. RESHAAD SHA, Chief Strategy Officer at DFA believes now is the perfect time for South Africa to implement the basics to get itself ready for the smart city revolution.

In the past, the concept of smart cities may have been a lofty consideration for a Sunday afternoon, but smart cities are no longer a preference—they are quickly becoming a critical necessity. This is due to the confluence of increasing urbanization, greater pressure being placed on the successful management of a city due to a rising population, and climate change. The latter in particular means that a city needs to have the wherewithal to manage a sudden natural crisis, such as flooding, and be able to dispatch emergency and medical units without delay to save lives.

Compounding matters is the fact that, according to Gartner, the digitization of IT (1) is further forcing cities to adapt, and, like most businesses, have a digital strategy in place. Smart cities are far from a flash in the pan—according to Transparency Market Research, the global smart cities market is growing 14% at present and is expected to reach a value of $1 265.85 billion by 2019.

Benefit bounty

The benefits of smart cities are wide ranging, affecting a broad spectrum of industries and making life easier for residents in a multitude of ways. Take for example the healthcare sector that could be positively impacted. Local and provincial hospitals currently deliver services in isolation, and patient records are not mutually accessible. Yet, in a smart city with integrated systems, standardized records will be available regardless of which hospital the patient visits. This process will provide better service to the patient, and more accurate national health information to the relevant authorities.

ICT research company, International Data Corporation (IDC) notes that South Africa is the leader when it comes to smart city technology in Africa. (2)  All three of our biggest cities  ̶  Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban  ̶  have put into operation some variants of smart city solutions.

The benefits of living in a smart city are plentiful, if the ‘smart’ part is implemented correctly and the city is well managed. For governments it means that cities can be better monitored and looked after, but also improved. An example of this could entail a network of sensors being placed in the drainage system. It would be able to provide indications of where blockages are occurring, and during flooding, also real-time information of where the biggest trouble spots are. Furthermore, through e-government initiatives, cities would be able to improve governmental processes to its stakeholders, including businesses and citizens. This includes many online services which could cut down on process cost and time. Examples of this includes SARS’s highly successful eFiling system, and the online application for car licence renewals or the registration of new businesses.

Locally, service delivery stands to benefit significantly from having effective systems and processes in place. The implementation of the City of Joburg’s “load-limiting” smart meter is one such instance, enabling the power utility to better monitor and manage electricity supply. During periods where the electricity grid is under pressure, households will be alerted to turn off high-consumption appliances to avoid full power cuts.

Smart cities explained

But what exactly is a smart city? In a nutshell, a smart city should provide the technology framework that enables its citizens, its resident businesses, its varied government and non-government stakeholders, and itself to be better served through innovative use of information and communication technologies.

Pervasive high-speed connectivity is the catalyst of and foundation for the development of a smart city. It is this connectivity that will enable effective data collection and analytics to ensure continuous improvement along with the use of mobile technologies to reach every citizen in South Africa. In short, only once a comprehensive high-speed network is in place will our cities be in a position to address our unique challenges and become smart.

However, this is only the first step, since  the formation of a smart city requires a long-term urban plan. The reason for this becomes obvious when looking at the growth of the world’s urban population, which is set to increase from 54%  to 66% between 2014 and 2050.  South Africa’s major cities need to have a defined 20- to 40-year plan, coupled with a long-term vision to accommodate this projected expansion.

Obstacles on the path

A number of other challenges still stand in the way of smart cities becoming a reality in South Africa. Along with underdeveloped infrastructure, an even more troubling obstacle is the skills deficit. This is a particularly vexing hindrance to the advancement of smart cities nationally, requiring well-trained, tech-savvy individuals who understand and can use IT systems when under pressure. Unfortunately, this development of human capital does not happen overnight.

Looking ahead

Recently, the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) launched the first global online community to encourage the development of smart sustainable cities. The aim of the portal is to assemble a community of experts to explore the factors that drive and impede the progression of global smart city development.

The evolving South African citizen of the future will be highly knowledgeable and more tech-savvy than ever before. They will expect enhanced, highly personalised service from cities and will move between cities to get what they want.

Cities, in effect, will become competitors for the top talent that, in turn, attracts businesses. To satisfy this new breed of citizen and so expand their tax bases, South African cities will have to see them as customers. This will require our cities to evolve considerably as they struggle to meet a new set of needs and to improve the quality of inhabitants’ lives.

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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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