What Makes a City Smart - Can Lagos Be Called a Smart City?

What Makes a City Smart - Can Lagos Be Called a Smart City?

Since the dawn of human civilization, cities have been the epicenters of economic, social, and cultural activity. The emergence of advanced technologies from the fourth industrial revolution has made its presence felt across all sectors in recent years. The term “smart city” has become a buzzword in urban planning and development, owing to the arrival of new technologies such as blockchain technology, big data, machine learning, Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, and 5G, which has laid the foundation for the next wave of innovation.

A smart city uses advanced technologies and innovative solutions to improve its citizens’ quality of life, increase sustainability, and promote economic growth. While there is no single definition of a smart city, most smart cities share several key characteristics. A smart city is defined as one that demonstrates cutting-edge master planning and integrates this with data-generated insights, technological innovation, and thought leadership to deliver refined solutions for the urbanization of world-class living and business environments.

With the introduction of digital solutions on the path to establishing a knowledge-based economy by adopting technologies that will change the way we communicate and interact with the world around us, the smart city landscape is becoming more intelligent and intuitive. In this article, we will look at what constitutes a smart city and whether Lagos, one of Africa’s largest cities, qualifies.

What Makes a City Smart?

Digital Infrastructure: A smart city has a strong digital infrastructure that allows it to collect, process, and analyze data from various sources. This infrastructure includes high-speed internet connectivity, sensor networks, and other communication technologies that allow information to be exchanged between various systems and devices. Thanks to this digital infrastructure, the city can now monitor and manage its resources in real-time, such as traffic flows, energy consumption, waste management, e-government services, and digital payment systems.

Sustainable Environment: A smart city prioritizes environmental sustainability by implementing environmentally friendly practices like waste reduction, renewable energy, and green transportation. The city employs innovative solutions such as smart grids, energy-efficient buildings, and intelligent transportation systems to reduce its carbon footprint and promote a cleaner environment.

Transportation Efficiency: An efficient transportation system reduces congestion and improves mobility in a smart city. Intelligent traffic management systems, real-time public transportation information, and shared mobility services are all part of this system. It also promotes the use of electric vehicles and other environmentally friendly modes of transportation to reduce air pollution and promote a healthier environment.

Intelligent urban planning: A smart city should have an integrated urban infrastructure that is well-planned and designed to meet the needs of its citizens. Green spaces, public amenities, and efficient waste management systems could all be included.

Data analytics: To optimize city operations and provide better services to citizens, smart cities rely heavily on data analytics. This includes collecting and analyzing data in real-time using sensors and other devices, as well as using predictive analytics to predict future events and trends.

Public safety is prioritized in smart cities by using technology to monitor crime, natural disasters, and other emergencies. This includes monitoring public spaces with sensors and cameras, providing real-time alerts and emergency response systems, and improving disaster preparedness.

Can Lagos be called a SmartCity?

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Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital has the fourth highest GDP in Africa and is among the top ten cities and urban regions in the world with the fastest-growing economies. According to 2018 population projections, Lagos state is Africa’s largest metropolitan area, with a growing population of over 23 million people. Many business hubs, financial centers, the entertainment industry, technology hubs, the seat of tourism, and many more are located in the city. However, Lagos faces numerous challenges, such as traffic congestion, pollution, and inadequate infrastructure. In recent years, the Lagos state government has taken steps to transform the city into a smart city, but there is still a long way to go.

To join the likes of Barcelona (Spain), Detroit (US), Boston (US), London (UK), Dubai (UAE), Oslo (Norway), Copenhagen (Denmark), Amsterdam (Netherlands), Hong Kong, and Indonesia among the over 50 smart cities that are leveraging digital advancements to raise greater efficiencies and productivity in their high-tech economies, the state government launched the Lagos Smart City Project in 2016.

This was a very forward-thinking initiative with enormous benefits, such as using smart applications to deliver efficiencies in the broad areas of mobility/traffic/transit, healthcare, security, water, energy, waste disposal, economic development, and housing. Especially since the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs predicts that cities will house nearly 70% of the world’s population by 2050. This means that nations must start innovating now to bring about meaningful change in the cities of the future, such as fighting crime, reducing traffic congestion, preventing and treating chronic conditions through remote monitoring, making commuting faster, providing cleaner environments, and allowing residents to be satisfied.

Why Lagos cannot be called a SmartCity Just Yet

However, seven years after this lofty initiative was launched, much remains to be desired, as the city’s efforts to achieve smart city status have been dwarfed by its glacial pace.

Lagos has a relatively high level of digital connectivity in terms of technology infrastructure, with an increasing number of people using smartphones and social media. However, there are still significant disparities in internet access, with many low-income households being disconnected. The Lagos State Fibre Optic Infrastructure Project, which aims to provide high-speed internet to all parts of the city, is one of several initiatives launched by the government to improve digital connectivity.

The government has also implemented several e-government services, such as the Lagos State Residents Registration Agency (LASRRA), which allows citizens to register for services and access information online.

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Data analytics: Lagos is also making progress in this area. The Lagos State Data Management Agency (LSDMA) was established by the state government to collect, analyze, and manage data on various aspects of city life such as health, education, and transportation. To improve city operations and emergency response, the LSDMA has created several digital platforms, including the Lagos State Traffic Management Authority (LASTMA) and the Lagos State Emergency Management Agency (LASEMA).

Sustainability: Lagos faces significant sustainability challenges, including air pollution, waste management, and inadequate water and sanitation infrastructure. The state is heavily reliant on fossil fuels, with gas-fired power plants generating the majority of its electricity. The government has made some efforts, however, to promote renewable energy sources such as solar power. For example, the Lagos Solar Project aims to install 10,000 solar panels in public schools throughout the city. Furthermore, the government has launched several initiatives to improve energy efficiency, such as the Lagos Energy Audit program, which aims to identify energy-saving opportunities in public buildings.

Waste Management

Additionally, the state government has launched several initiatives to address issues such as the over 13,000 tons of waste generated every day, much of which is dumped in open landfills or burned, resulting in environmental degradation and health risks. While the government has taken steps to address the issue, such as establishing a waste management agency, there is still a long way to go in promoting sustainable practices in the city, such as the Cleaner Lagos Initiative, which aims to improve waste management and reduce environmental pollution. The government is also encouraging the use of renewable energy sources like solar power and the development of green infrastructure like parks and green spaces.

Efficient Transportation: Lagos’ transportation system is notoriously congested, with heavy traffic and limited public transportation options. The government, on the other hand, has made some efforts to improve the situation. For example, it has launched a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that provides commuters with fast and affordable transportation. Ride-hailing platforms such as Bolt, InDrive, and Uber, among others, supplement this. Smart ticketing and real-time passenger information are available on the BRT system, making it more convenient for passengers. In addition, the government has recently launched a light rail train service throughout the city.

Conclusively, while Lagos has made significant progress toward the status of a smart city, due to some of the challenges outlined above that the state government has yet to adequately address, it is safe to say that Lagos is still a long way from joining the ranks of Barcelona, London, Boston, and Dubai. However, with increased attention from tech founders and activities in the city, it is a matter of when, not if, Eko will take its rightful place among the world’s leading smart cities.