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SA ‘could’ lead smart city race

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New technology and the advent of big data is creating opportunities for Africa to leapfrog other parts of the world when it comes to smart cities, says DENISE LEE.

The ‚Äòthird industrial revolution’ led by new digital technologies, converging streams of information and the advent of big data is creating opportunities for Africa to leapfrog other parts of the world with smart city technologies that could revolutionise the quality of life for city dwellers, says Deloitte.

Already, says Denise Lee, Associate Director: City Solution Leader for Deloitte Africa, several major metros in South Africa are investigating the potential that smart city technologies have for meeting the needs of an increasingly urbanised population- a population that could see the size of Africa’s cities doubling within the next 15 years.

South Africa, as a continental business leader and home to the second-largest economy in Africa, has much in common with Africa when it comes to population age and prospects. The major differentiator for the country lies in its well-developed infrastructure and access to skills. These two factors will prove vital in enabling cities like Johannesburg to launch initiatives ahead of competitive cities elsewhere in Africa.

Municipalities in Gauteng are aware of the advantages that smart city systems hold for the future. Many, with Deloitte assistance, are already investigating systems and there potential future roll out. The opportunities presented are regarded as not only essential in optimizing services on the ground, but a way to increase service delivery-especially where problems exist in this regard.

This will be made possible by municipal use of big data to effectively coordinate and schedule activities across diverse city services – alleviating the problems and costs arising from present practices caused by a lack of communication and allocation of resources across cities,” says Lee.

The spread of big data and its use across municipal operations will change the current reality imposed on service delivery by operations that operate in silos, communication is awkward and data capture is still mainly a manual process. Sharing pertinent information across areas such as asset, fleet and workforce management will result in shorter task turn- around times being achieved through the avoidance of bottlenecks in the system.

Best practice has shown that this can be achieved through the establishment of data warehouses and business intelligence-assets that developing cities still lack. The most used method for rectifying this is through the establishment of an operations centre. City managers are able to access data in real- time streams whilst operators can facilitate responses from different departments to deal with incidents as they occur.

“The operations centre powered by big data is the pinnacle of a city’s tactical strategy as it provides a focus point that pivots on achieving cost savings through the consolidation, monitoring and optimisation of shared ICT assets and services. It also plays roles in:

· Stimulating business by creating a city-wide digital strategy that fosters economic growth through access to broadband and Wi-Fi services:

· Driving efficient citizen relationships systems geared to resolving their requests and complaints on first call and benchmarked call closure times:

· Lowering costs by providing an analytics capability to monitor and optimise city processes and resources that can be benchmarked against international standards: and

· The ability to provide for enhanced second-tier, cross-department and agency support to citizens and providing integrated structures rather than operations that work in silos.

Underpinning this proactive environment means that data sources which can range from CCTV camera systems, voice, social media, streaming data, sensor logs, supervisory control systems and data acquisition sources are combined with traditional structured and unstructured data to support the mission of the city.

As with all major initiatives that have the potential to revolutionise the environment in which people live and go about their daily business, the transformation of a city from a reactive position to a proactive stance will take several years to accomplish. Considerable monetary, IT and organisational restructuring will also be required,” say Lee.

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