The world is now a digital space where ‘innovation’ is becoming something of a buzzword in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. But the hype is real. Technology experts predict that smart technology and connectivity will soon redefine…

The world is now a digital space where ‘innovation’ is becoming something of a buzzword in the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry. But the hype is real. Technology experts predict that smart technology and connectivity will soon redefine and reshape how urban life is lived. The Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics; among others, are already redefining urban service delivery and it seems this is only the beginning.

Many developments in innovation relate to the operationalising of smart cities. A smart city is a designation applied to a city that leverages ‘smart’ technology to bring efficiency to the delivery of public services; security, environmental sanitation, transportation, water systems, power supplies and government services for example. Smart cities essentially use technology to provide services and solve urban problems. With improved and highly responsive social services provided by smart cities, citizens are given a voice and sustainability is enhanced.

Asia has had its fair share of smart cities, with countries like Singapore ranking at the top. In Singapore, smart technology has been used to create efficiency in the health sector. For instance, telemedicine, among others, was used to improve the quality of and access to health, particularly by patients in remote areas who are not within the reach of traditional healthcare. Other notable smart cities outside Asia include Barcelona, Oslo, San Francisco, Amsterdam and London.

To address the myriad of challenges and problems affecting the standard of living of its citizens, the Lagos State government had, under the previous administration, initiated, formulated and executed various ICT policies aimed at transforming Lagos into a smart city. Fortunately, it appears that the vision of the Lagos State government under the present government of Babajide Sanwo-Olu is to continue in that direction and make the State one of the world’s knowledge hubs through the application of smart technologies.

The vision of the Lagos Smart City Project was conceptualized in June 2016. The Project got off to a successful implementation but did not deliver on every aspect of the core components of a smart city. The ‘Lagos State Smart Initiatives’; as originally conceived, was designed to connect human and social capital with ICT infrastructure.

This was then to be deployed to address lapses in public services, while achieving a more sustainable development and increasing the quality of life of citizens within the shortest possible time. The hallmarks of the Project were improved transportation, security and surveillance, implementation of a metro-fibre network and e-governance. Project implementation was set out in two phases.

The first phase would seek to address transportation, security and infrastructure; while the second phase was designed to strengthen those services, including connectivity, in the most sustainable manner.

It was envisaged that the security component of the Project would deploy thousands of surveillance CCTV cameras, sensors and other high-tech equipment at strategic locations in the state for the purpose of crime prevention and detection. The transportation component would focus on the Intelligent Transport Service (ITS) and the connectivity component, with provision of metro fibre network.

The metro fibre network was to entail the laying of underground fibre optic cables, through a major telecommunications company that would eventually provide connectivity to homes, offices and institutions in the State. Sensors were to be installed on strategically located masts to monitor security and traffic situations around the State for prompt attention where necessary. Through the smart city project, data would be collected directly from citizens and smart devices for the purpose of real-time short, medium and long-term data analysis, decision making and planning. A world data center would collect, collate and analyze the data transmitted from the sensors and CCTV cameras situated around Lagos. This data room would be linked to the various law enforcement agencies like the Nigeria Police Force, the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA), the Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), etc. This, it was intended, would provide necessary cohesion and increased efficiency between these agencies.

The critical infrastructure in the second phase of the Project was intended to enhance broadband connectivity and penetration by the provision of reliable high-speed internet open access, which would be actualised through the proliferation of fibre infrastructure across Lagos.

With the construction and installation of fibre infrastructure, the Government will be able to provide free internet connectivity to public institutions, schools, courts, government agencies, hospitals, local government councils and others. This phase will also witness a convergence and automation of the services offered by government agencies into a one-stop shop and reduces the multiplicity of government services.

The last mile of this phase will also see the extension of internet connectivity to homes and offices in the state (fibre-to-the-home”). In the health sector, hospitals will be empowered to maintain a real time data base of patients’ records for better health care delivery. Schools and other learning institutions will equally have access to high speed internet which will enhance learning and research methods.

The implementation of a smart city project is usually cost-intensive and can be actualized using any of the various available models designed for projects of this magnitude. It would seem the most appropriate of such financing methods would be a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model.

Collaborating with the private sector will mean passing on huge financial project costs which the Lagos State Government (‘LASG’) may otherwise struggle to bear, given its budgetary constraints. In turn, the LASG could provide consideration in the form of the right of way (a valuable asset) which is required for laying of fibre optics across the state by the private sector operator. The combination of the right of way provided by the LASG and the funding and expertise provided by the private sector, will contribute to the overall success of the Project. LASG’s stake, as well as the private sector investment in the Project, are recoverable through the commercialization of internet connectivity and erection of LED billboards for commercial adverts.

If Lagos were to attain the status of a fully functional smart city, this would have tremendous commercial and qualitative advantage for both its economy and the standard of living of its citizens. curled from Business Day