South Africa is ideally suited to adopt smart city technologies, with the potential to leapfrog international counterparts and lead a new generation of thinking. This is according to Edwin Diender, Vice President, Government and Public Utility Sector, Huawei Enterprise Business Group.
“When it comes to identifying needs and resolving to establish smart initiatives, South Africa is on par with the rest of the world – with many initiatives already being addressed in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Durban, and Port Elizabeth,” says Diender.
Cities are getting smarter
Cities globally have common objectives regarding the safety, healthcare, and education of their communities, as well as the delivery of services in the form of utilities and transportation networks.
The growth of ICT is enabling cities to better meet these objectives, allowing for smart solutions that aim at developing the urban ecosystem while managing assets and resources efficiently.
“There is no clear definition for what constitutes a smart city, but typically we think of it as a city that “gets you” and addresses needs and challenges in an intelligent way,” says Diender. “For example, it’s a platform that links initiatives by government, giving insight to officials who need to anticipate challenges and take action, while driving things forward in an accessible way.”
An example of this might be street lights with built-in motion sensors that allow the lights to turn off and save power until movement of a vehicle or pedestrian is detected.
“These motion sensors might take the form of a camera, which could also act as an additional eye for the police,” adds Diender. “If you add advanced image recognition to those cameras, they could even detect flooding in the streets and identify water leaks. In this instance, you’ll have one smart device talking to three industries – security, lighting, and water.”
Smart cities uplift communities
Smart city initiatives often focus on improvements around infrastructure and healthcare, but Huawei advocates a “first safe then smart” approach that emphasises public safety as a starting point.
“When people feel safe and secure, they’re happy to live in an area and will support the community by eating food sold by street vendors and browsing local shops,” says Diender. “In Kenya, as crime decreased, international tourism increased, which has a very positive impact on the Kenyan economy.”
Smart technology can increase the effectiveness of crime prevention. Intelligent IT, communications, and video-analysis technologies along with cloud platforms and big data analytics help police to ensure public safety and can multiply the efficiency of personnel.
These solutions combine to provide converged command control and visualised dispatching to improve emergency response time.
Smart city initiatives also allow for increased social inclusion, providing digital identities to people living in communities on the outskirts of society and focusing on the resources that residents need to operate in a digital society – such as public Wi-Fi access and mobile apps offering access to digitalized government services.
“For many services offered today, you need a postal code and physical address, which is actually rather difficult for some people to claim. In South Africa, these people may be somewhat disconnected physically from the city, even though they work and contribute to society. A very high percentage of them have mobile phones, however, and so they can be involved digitally – like a digital resident with a digital identity and address, with access to digital voting, social security, digital financial services, education, healthcare, and so forth,” adds Diender.
Opportunities and challenges in South Africa
South Africa is in a unique position when it comes to establishing smart solutions because local government is very supportive of these initiatives.
“Europe is almost over-regulated, making it very difficult to proceed swiftly, compared to South Africa,” says Diender. “In fact, if Amsterdam and Johannesburg were to compete in implementing a particular smart solution, I believe Johannesburg could easily win the race.”
South Africa’s focus going forward needs to be on better integrating its smart initiatives and losing the “vertical, project by project” mindset.
“Many great smart technologies are being rolled out locally, but often these are still managed as stand-alone projects using the methodologies of the past. But developing a smart city is not a project that has a set beginning and end or a fixed budget. It is ongoing and needs to be approached holistically and be well-integrated,” adds Diender.
“You can’t solve the problems of tomorrow with the methodologies of today. Current systems and processes need to change. It takes a while to put these in place, but once achieved, they create efficiency, productivity, security, and scalability.”
How Huawei is enabling smart city development
Huawei is a global leader in the development and supply of smart city solutions, offering comprehensive systems and services that features top-level design, integration, operations, service applications, and end-to-end ICT infrastructure.
“The smart city concept is not one that can be bought,” says Diender. “It’s an ongoing initiative that is made up of various smart, integrated solutions. At Huawei, we develop open, customer-centric solutions that help to build sustainable platforms and smart city ecosystems.”
The company is one of the few ICT solution providers in the industry that can offer end-to-end cloud-pipe-device solutions, leading the way to connecting the physical and digital worlds. Leveraging leading new ICT such as cloud computing, IoT and AI, Huawei is committed to creating a strong nervous system that powers Smart Cities.
“With our innovations and investment in various technologies, we develop an open platform for Smart Cities, which is compatible with various devices and supports a wide range of applications. We aim to be the rich soil that supports the robust and sustainable development of Smart Cities. We will continue to work together with our ecosystem of partners to create top-level designs addressing city administrators’ needs and achieving the ultimate goals of a Smart City – to enable good governance, promote industry development and deliver benefits for communities,” concludes Diender.
Huawei’s Smart City solutions are serving over 120 cities in more than 40 countries around the globe.