Smart Cities are becoming a critical necessity, and now is the time for South Africa to implement the basic foundations to become smart-city ready.
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.
Cities need to be able to manage a sudden natural crisis, such as flooding, and be able to dispatch emergency and medical units without delay to save lives.
“South Africa is the leader when it comes to smart city technology in Africa,” says Reshaad Sha, Chief Strategy Officer for DFA.
“All three of our biggest cities ̶ Johannesburg, Cape Town, and Durban ̶ have put into operation some variants of smart city solutions.”
Nevertheless, he adds that South African cities would benefit from pervasive high-speed connectivity, which 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,” Sha adds.
However, this is only the first step, since the formation of a smart city requires a long-term urban plan, and 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,” Sha says.
This challenges 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.
“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,” Sha concludes.