By Florence Israel, Abuja
Technology experts from various walks of life have stormed Abuja for the maiden edition of Smart Cities Summit, a two-day technological advancement summit being hosted by the Federal Ministry of Communications at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja.
The event, which started on Tuesday, the 8th of August 2017 and will be ending Wednesday, has the theme, “Leveraging on technology solutions to improve the efficiency of cities”, and targeted at developing an effective platform for the rising of smart cities in Nigeria.
The Minister of Communications, Barrister Abdul-Raheem Adebayo Shittu, who is the chief host while addressing the audience in is speech captioned “Smart Cities Vision For Nigeria”, explained that the main objective of the summit was to tap into the vast knowledge of experts in the smart city space so as to assist the Federal Government in developing practical steps and solutions towards smart cities initiative for Nigeria.
Shittu explained further that due to the way things were currently being done, there was a need for innovative approaches.
“This summit is about Leveraging on Technology Solutions to improve Efficiency of Cities. Its main objectives among others is to tap into the vast knowledge of experts in the smart city space, and leverage on their experience to assist the federal government in developing practical steps and solutions that will assist the relevant MDA’s in formulating a unified and national robust Roadmap towards an effective smart cities initiative for Nigeria.
“It is also intended to x-ray the huge business opportunities for providers of smart city technologies to exhibit and pitch their solutions and products to Federal, State and Local Government top officials, and real estate developers who are all here as our special guests.
“Indeed, we do need innovative approaches because we are living in the midst of a paradigm change (some call it a new industrial revolution). We are seeing a shift in the way we have been accustomed to produce and consume, to commute and communicate, to do business and manage the planet’s scarce resources. A shift, which is nourished by several technological breakthroughs occurring at the same time in the field of energy, building, transport and communication; new renewable energy technologies, electronic mobility, the hyper-connectivity of our devices, and the ability to produce and analyze big data. All this is happening, and it’s happening in developed and developing economies, which makes this summit so relevant,” he said.
The Minister pointed out that the concept of smart cities varies from country to country, therefore cannot be built by individuals and organizations alone but by a collective effort, the need for our cities to develop an interconnected and integrated approaches as the gap in infrastructure and other basic amenities is a real huge challenge to smart cities development.
“We know that cities just don’t become ‘smart’. It takes a strategic and integrated planning approach and a comprehensive and high-quality IT infrastructure. It needs to be broad based and holistic. It needs to be a smart revolution!
The concept of Smart City on the other hand varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change, reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents.
“It is pertinent to note again that smart cities are not built by one organization or a sector of government but by a collective of all stakeholders. The global practice usually is to constitute a consortium made up of critical stakeholders who would come together in a PPP model to help drive and implement the project.
“Our Cities need to develop an interconnected, integrated approach, one that brings together areas traditionally viewed as separate: energy and mobility, government and health, education and environment, and so on. The aim must be to forge a holistic smart city strategy that encompasses every area of citizens’ lives. To have an end-to end thinking in all our strategies! We must develop an approach that is based on a properly thought-through program, consisting of integrated actions and carefully planned steps. We need to develop a comprehensive, end-to-end smart city strategy.
“In recent years unfortunately, we have witnessed a significant increase of concern and frustration among the dwellers in our urban cities of the challenges and pressure occasioned by living in the city. These include demographic change, globalization, environmental and climate protection, mobility and transportation, safety and security, knowledge based society etc.
“It is a common knowledge that we are wrestling with both an infrastructure gap, after years of underinvestment, and an innovation gap from poor innovation performance in the business sector over the years. We also know that going smart would not be easy. In fact, it is a huge challenge giving the lack of critical infrastructure in the country. Epileptic power for instance is a major challenge for any smart city initiative for the country. Cheap, clean and dependable power supply is the bedrock of any smart city project. So also, is effective broadband penetration and affordable data service.
“This requires comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure. All are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investments to the city, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development”, he explained.
Barrister Shittu further brought to shore in an extensive 21-page speech the several efforts being made by the current administration in converting the challenges.
“This administration under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR through the Ministry of Communications has developed cogent policies, frameworks and guidelines for combating these challenges and transforming and making our cities ‘smarter’. The Nigerian ICT Road Map 2016-2020, the National Strategic Plan 2016-2024, the broad band policy, the new Power Sector Reforms, and the Nigerian Smart City Initiative are some of the initiatives by government toward addressing these issues”.
The event was attended by several Ministers of the Federal Republic including the FCT Minister, Mallam Mohammed Bello. Some of the nation’s governors were also represented. Also in attendance were ECOWAS representatives, Ambassadors of foreign nations amongst other dignitaries from the technology world.