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FG opens Smart City Summit, urges private sector participation

• Tasks stakeholders on challenges

The Federal Government has declared the maiden Smart City Summit Nigeria open with a charge to stakeholders to proffer solutions aimed at enhancing its implementation.

Smart City has been described as a city outfitted with high-tech communications capabilities, uses digital technology to enhance performance and well-being, to reduce costs and resources consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens.

Professor Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), Acting President, in his opening address on the maiden theme: “Leveraging on Technology Solutions to improve Efficiency of Cities,” commended the Minister of Communications for working in collaboration with her partners in the planning ministry to introduce a ‘Smart City Challenge’ across the country.

Osinbajo cited Kenya, South African and Rwanda, who are already big players on the African continent, adding that Nairobi, which looks at Singapore as a role model for the city of the future, ranks among the most advanced cities on the African continent on the forefront of Smart Cities and has won the title of Most Intelligent City in Africa for two years in a row.

He said that Smart Cities can be replicated in Nigeria, but lamented that as much as the initiative of Smart Cities is incredible and rational, its policy implementation on Nigeria at the current socioeconomic condition, might be a bit difficult.

He said,“Nigeria is changing rapidly looking to emerge as one of the world’s great center of both innovation and opportunity in the generations ahead. However, we cannot take this trend for granted. The Smart cities initiative for Nigeria, according to the ministry, will, among others, take a critical look at the preparedness, unique challenges and emerging solutions necessary for a sustainable Smart city initiative for the country.”

This government, he said, plans to encourage innovative technologies to spearhead smart domestic production, smart agriculture, smart e-government & health delivery, smart mobility, smart energy & environment, smart policing, and indeed, smart cities.

On his part, the Minister of Communications, Barrister Abdur-Raheem Adebayo Shittu said: “We know that cities just don’t become ‘smart’. It takes a strategic and integrated planning approach and a comprehensive and high-quality IT infrastructure. It needs to be broad based and holistic. It needs to be a smart revolution!”

According to the minister, Smart Cities are not built by one organization or a sector of government, but by a collective of all stakeholders, adding that the global practice usually is to constitute a consortium made up of critical stakeholders, who would come together in a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model to help drive and implement the project.

“Our Cities need to develop an interconnected, integrated approach, one that brings together areas traditionally viewed as separate: energy and mobility, government and health, education and environment, and so on. The aim must be to forge a holistic smart city strategy that encompasses every area of citizens’ lives. To have an end-to end thinking in all our strategies! We must develop an approach that is based on a properly thought-through programme, consisting of integrated actions and carefully planned steps. We need to develop a comprehensive, end-to-end smart city strategy,” the minister said.

The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications, Arc. Sonny S.T. Echono, who doubles as Chairman, Inter-Ministerial, Multi-Stakeholders Local Organizing Committee said that the essence of this year’s summit is to enable stakeholders in the ICT sector to meet, brainstorm, proffer practical steps and solutions that will assist the relevant Ministries and Agencies of government in formulating a unified and national, robust Roadmap towards an effective smart cities initiative for Nigeria.

He said,“Statistics provide that about 48 per cent of Nigerians are living in urban areas with the potential of a geometric increase as urbanization continues to happen in the city. With the number of people living in urban areas around the world predicted to rise to 6.4 billion by 2050; Nigerian cities like Lagos, Abuja, Kaduna, Enugu and Port Harcourt to mention but a few, need to get smart.”

Tony Nwakaegho

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