Will Harare achieve being a smart city by 2025?

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If someone hears the phrase “a smart city”, he/she will think of a city with clean roads, no rubbish in pavements, no vendors everywhere. However due to technology advancement in this digitalisation era, Internet of Things (IoT) is gaining traction, impacting every area of our lives and quickly turning everything to be Smart, thus Smartphones, Smart TV, Smartwatches etc.

 A smart city is an urban area that uses different types of electronic data collection sensors to supply information which is used to manage assets and resources efficiently. The goal of a smart city is ultimate to improve quality of life, however, there is no universally accepted definition of a smart city. It means different things to different people. The conceptualisation of Smart City, therefore varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change and reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents.

Image: City of Harare

An up Smart City can be achieved through the use of digital, information and communication technologies to improve services, manage its asset network, reduce costs and protect the environment. These technologies provide data and real-time updates on things like traffic, parking, pollution, and more in order to make life easier and ensure the smooth running of the city.

The city of Harare council corporate communications manager, Michael Chideme, told the Herald that they have a vision of making Harare a world-class city by 2025, so can that be achieved? Yes, it can be achieved if the council would find a way to pace up their standards. Recently the City of Harare introduced e-billing in which they confirmed that the residents welcomed it well with over 30 000 residents registering to the system. E-billing is a business process used to speed up payments and securely without dealing with the hassles of paper bills and check payments online. The system will help on improving service delivery and also improve revenue to the council.

The city has also introduced the Geographic Information System (GIS), a system designed to capture, store, manipulate, analyse, manage, and present geographic data. This system will help the organisation to capture buildings/properties for billing purposes and this will provide a visual interpretation of data. GIS is a very useful tool because of its massive collaborative effort of OpenStreetMap and auto-generated location tags in social media you can be located exactly where you are.

Meanwhile, the Police of Harare is also working on improving the way motorist travel around the city by using the Electronic Traffic Management System. The system will help in Real-time traffic data from cameras and speed sensors. This will reduce motorist from breaking road rules. Since the system is going to be introduced in phases the hope is the police will speed up the process in the bid to achieve the goal of building a Smart City. So far, the traffic management in Zimbabwe is relative substandard (traffic lights are always congested) as compared to some of our neighbouring countries where the road network is improving and the traffic management is quite superb, for an instant in South Africa, there is more to be embraced in IT.

How does Smart Traffic lights work in a Smart City? Traffic light system senses when heavy traffic is approaching and ensures the lights stay green for longer in order to reduce congestion during peak hours hence no police officers will be at the middle of an intersection to help the Traffic Light filter the traffic.

One Good example of a Smart City: The City of Songdo in South Korea first broke ground in 2003. Songdo is Green, sustainable and implementing the best of available technologies to improve quality of life, the city has come a long way to making this vision a reality. With free Wi-Fi throughout the city, sensors monitor everything from temperature and energy use to traffic flow. Digital road signs offer traffic and weather updates and closed-circuit television cameras and sensors keep public spaces safe, while homes are controlled at the touch of a button.

The City of Songdo in South Korea

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