“Mobile applications can be used to monitor traffic. City managers need to see technology as a utility and more investments need to be channeled in that direction. The role of technology is an enabler in future cities, the efficiency of the use of smart technology cannot be ignored,” she added.
The participants were unanimous that managing Africa’s urban transformation cannot be effectively realised without the use of modern technology.
They said the future cities will comprise of a network society interconnected by information communication technology with broadband internet connectivity playing a key role. Participants are convinced that this will increase productivity, create jobs and provide faster as well as cost effective means of delivering public service.
“We must continue to invest in African cities; We must catch up with others. We should invest more broadband connectivity to link cities across Africa,” said the executive mayor of Cape Town in South Africa, Patricia de Lille.
The Vice President, head of Operations Sub-Saharan Africa and Country Manager of Ericsson, Ghana, Allan Triggs, said about five billion mobile phone connections now exist across the world, stressing that undersea cable connectivity from Africa to the outside world has increased tremendously since 2009, leading to 40% drop in broadband costs in Ghana.
Triggs pointed out that increasing use of cell phones across Africa has transformed lifestyles, provided jobs and reduced distances.
He said because of the great opportunities and the glamour, more people now live in the cities than rural areas all over the world, thereby putting pressure on infrastructure.
According to him,”There is big challenge for the cities, because young people want to go to the cities. Smart cities technology provides smart transport, excellent public transportation and excellent Wi-Fi connectivity.'
He added, however, that,” Very few countries have it. If I take away your smart phones, laptops, i-pad, e-mails and internet, not many people can exist without them, so broadband penetration is key to the development of any city”.
But one of the participants sounded a note of caution about relying too much on technology to drive socio-economic life of city inhabitants.
”The Future is network life as stated by the various speakers, but we should not forget that there is downside for the optimization of technology. We seem to be overlooking it, there is no replacement for human interaction,” the participant, who did not disclose his name, said.
The conference, with the theme: ”Managing Africa’s Urban Transformation”, was organised by one of the world’s leading news magazine, The Economist.
This year’s future cities summit provided the required platform for 150 senior level participants to debate challenging questions around managing, designing and financing the continent’s cities. They also discussed the future of Africa’s urban transformation with an international group of experts.
Five mayors, including those of Lagos, Johannesburg, Harare, Cape Town and Dar Es Salaam, participated in the high-level panel discussions.