Cape Town Is Emerging As One Of The World’s Smart Cities

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Cape Town, South Africa’s second largest city by population, is emerging as one of the world’s smart cities, but its smart city strategy is at present not focused on Internet of Things (IoT) opportunities.

In its Smart City Playbook, a strategy report that documents best practices for smart cities, Nokia documents provides concrete guidance to city leaders on successful strategies used by other municipalities to make their cities smarter, safer and more sustainable.

The study uncovered significant diversity in the smart city strategies of 22 cities, but identified three distinct ‘routes’ that cities are taking to make themselves smarter.

The ‘anchor’ route involves a city deploying a single application to address a pressing problem such as traffic congestion, and then adding other applications over time.

The ‘platform’ route involves building the underlying infrastructure needed to support a wide variety of smart applications and services.

‘Beta Cities’, by contrast, try out multiple applications as pilots to see how they perform before making long-term deployment decisions.

The cities profiled in the study include Auckland, Bangkok, Barcelona, Berlin, Bogota, Bristol, Cape Town, Cleveland, Delhi, Dubai, Jeddah, Mexico City, New York City, Paris, Pune, San Francisco, São Paulo, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, Vienna and Wuxi.

The report noted that Cape Town has much to learn from other cities about the potential of IoT applications to make the city’s operations more efficient and improve the lives of its citizens.

“It could do worse than ‘copy with dignity’ some implementations and trials that are deployed elsewhere – for example, in smart street lighting, environmental monitoring or traffic management,” said Machina Research, a provider of strategic market intelligence on the Internet of Things (IoT), which developed the report.

It also praised Cape Town for adopting an approach suitable to its local context, rather than pursuing grand projects that its citizens cannot benefit from, it is tailoring its efforts to what it perceives are their needs.

The Smart City Playbook’ report also stated that Cape Town has made strong efforts in investing in the less glamorous, but necessary work of providing basic training to ensure that people in the city are equipped to make use of digital services as they are introduced.

The main emphasis of Cape Town smart city strategy is on e-Government to provide better access to and more efficient delivery of human facing services.  Providing social and economic development by improving ICT skills is also an area of priority. This accounts for the city’s relatively high ‘smart’ score.

  • Cape Town’s principal smart city activities have, to date, included:
  • Public Wi-Fi. Being rolled out during 2016.
  • CCTV. With 560 cameras located throughout the city.
  • Open Data Portal. Launched in 2015.
  • Smart grid. Several pilots underway through DEDAT.

The report also noted that Cape Town is most advanced in the smart category of smart city projects, but also has a smart grid trial projects in the safe category.

“The City of Cape Town is… using digital tools to enhance the quality of the organisation’s engagement with residents. This enables the City to be a caring and responsive government,” said André Stelzner, City of Cape Town’s Director, Information Services & Technology.

While the study found significant differences between cities, even amongst those cities following the same route, it also concluded that there are several particular practices used by successful smart cities that would appear to be of universal benefit, including:

  • Successful cities have established open and transparent rules for the use of data (on which all smart cities are dependent) by government departments and third parties, whether shared freely or monetized to cover data management costs.
  • Many cities that are advanced in their smart city journeys have committed to making both information and communications technology (ICT) and IoT infrastructure accessible to users both inside and outside of government, and have avoided the creation of ‘silos’ between government departments.
  • Governments (and their third-party partners) that have worked to actively engage residents in smart city initiatives have been particularly effective, most notably those where the benefits are highly visible such as smart lighting and smart parking.
  • Smart city infrastructure needs to be scalable so it can grow and evolve to meet future needs, and secure to provide certainty that both government and private data are protected.
  • Cities that select technology partners that can provide the innovation capacity, ability to invest and real-world experience, along with technology platforms that are open to avoid vendor lock-in, will be at an advantage.

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