Cities are really important
Cities can act as economic engines for entire countries. It is estimated that by 2050, eight out of 10 South Africans will be living in one of the country’s cities. This begs two important questions, “Will these be smart cities?” and “What does a smart city look like in the South African context?”.
The answer to the first question lies with each of us. While the ultimate goal of any smart city is about implementing data and communications technology to increase public safety, coordinate transport and provide access to services for all – all of which are good and indispensable services – at its heart the goal of a smart city strategy is simple: It seeks to meet its people’s needs. South African citizens need ready access to Internet connectivity and digital skills training – because it takes smart citizens to build a smart city – from the ground up.
Access to affordable Internet connectivity is really important
The World Economic Forum says, “The internet is fast becoming the essential infrastructure of the 21st century. It is as revolutionary in its way to how people live, work, play and interact as previous revolutions in transportation, energy and telephony have been in theirs.” South Africa’s challenge lies beyond just the availability of infrastructure – it is also about affordability. Bridging the digital divide with the aim of building South Africa’s smart cities requires making the internet affordable to citizens in our lowest income brackets.
Digital skills are really important
Without digital skills it is not possible for citizens to participate in the digital economy or digital society. Beyond the work environment a lack of digital skills also affects the way South African’s live in community and communicate. The Cape Digital Foundation believes it is essential to inspire digital infrastructure investing and facilitate initiatives that will stimulate the uptake and use of technology – leading to a wholesale growth in digital skills in the enabling of smart citizens.
What do South African smart cities look like?
The answer to question number two? The Foundation believes that South Africa’s townships are the smart mega-cities of the future. We believe that valuable innovation will be born of the Internet-enabled informal sector and that connectivity and digital skills have the power to give smart South Africans’ agency and purpose in building a smart South Africa.
What do you think? Tell us by leaving a comment below.