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Can Lagos truly become a smart city?

There is one phrase that is going viral in under-developed nations like Nigeria, and that is the concept of “smart city.”
There is one phrase that is going viral in under-developed nations like Nigeria, and that is the concept of “smart city.” The idea of smart city is not new. It has been in existence for decades in developed nations. If not for challenges, ranging from bad leadership to lack of clear cut vision that have plagued Nigeria, perhaps one or more of the cities in Nigeria would have become smart cities by now.

Apparently, Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, has got it wrong over the years. Her keen appetite to be at the same level with the likes of Vienna, Tokyo, Berlin, Barcelona, Copenhagen, Toronto, Hong Kong, New York, Paris, and London (the top 10 smart cities in the world) cannot be denied.

Some states in Nigeria, especially, Lagos, are looking forward to transforming into smart cities rapidly in few years to come. No doubt, Lagos is is the economic hub of West Africa and its current administration is poised to getting it right in the area of achieving the smart city status.

The quest and efforts of the Lagos State Government towards this course cannot be underestimated. Its efforts towards achieving the smart city status is quite commendable, having signed a treaty with Dubai Holdings, LLC, owners of smart city (Dubai), to develop a sustainable, globally connected, knowledge-based community that drives a knowledgeable economy. Truly, this recent move by the Lagos State Government is a reinforcing testament to the unique mark of innovation and zeal that has so far characterised the administration of Governor Akinwunmi Ambode.

The governor has said that it is a deliberate attempt by the state government to establish a strong convergence between technology/economic development and governance. There is the strong perception that the move will attract multi-billion dollar investments to Lagos; create thousands of jobs and transform the state.

The fact, however, remains that the Lagos State Government will need to address some fundamental issues first, if it must achieve the smart city status.

 Bottlenecks
One of the issues that the Lagos State Government must address before it attains the smart city status is that it must look inwards to ascertain if it has the impetus of being a smart city. That is not to undermine Lagos State’s efforts but we must cultivate the habit of addressing primary issues before transcending to secondary issues.
Mind you, a smart city, systematically, creates and encourages innovations in systems that are enabled by technology. It changes the relationships between the creation of economic and social values and the consumption of resources as well as contributes in a coordinated way to achieving a vision and clear objectives that are supported by a consensus among the city’s stakeholders.
Lagos State must, however, check if the following have been satisfactorily done. If yes, that would be a plus. If not achieved yet, then it is imperative that they are addressed.

 Robust ICT infrastructure
Does Lagos State have a sustainable and conducive environment in the area of Information and Communications Technology? You cannot, however, compare any other cities in Nigeria to Lagos in terms of internet and ICT infrastructure as it surpasses them all. Through the use of ICT, the authorities can provide residents with a number of services electronically that will make life easy.
 Early in the year, I was in Berlin, and the city depicted an epitome of a smart city. I must say that I really enjoyed the experience. In smart cities like Berlin and London, modern technologies such as e-banking, e-governance, e-security, health technology, wind technology, metro, modern diagnostic techniques, current solar, etc., are deployed and judiciously utilised.

 Basic infrastructure
Apart from the modern-day technologies, a smart city would have an efficient transportation system, coupled with the readiness to ensure good governance, which implies that the government will provide easy access to government services. Basic infrastructure such as the provision of portable water and electricity supply, sanitation, solid and liquid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transportation must be addressed.

 Good governance
Smart city is not just about IT infrastructural deployment alone. If good governance is absent, all efforts at achieving a smart city will be jeopardised. Although, the administration of Governor Ambode has been impressive and phenomenal; what about the next team of leaders that would assume office in years to come? In other words, there should be a continuum in the provision of good governance to have, maintain and sustain a smart city status.
With good governance, there would be smart solutions to public information, settlement of grievances, electronic service delivery, citizens’ engagement, waste to energy and fuel, waste to compost, including 100 per cent treatment of sewage, smart meters and management, monitoring water quality, renewable source of energy, efficient energy and green building, smart parking, intelligent traffic management system, etc.
There are glimpses of hope that the Lagos State Government would deepen infrastructural development and security systems with the governor’s assertion that his administration is running a tripod of programmes centered around infrastructure, security and job creation.

 Efficient data system
The capture of the necessary data of citizens through a connected systematic process is a real trigger to achieving the status of a smart city. There should be a comprehensive, relevant, systematic, sustainable and reliable approach towards eliciting and collating the primary data of Lagos State residents. This will help the smart city status of the state.
Lagos State can, therefore, be said to be on the path of achieving the smart city status but much still needs to be done, as shown above, before it can attain such a status.



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