Lagos: Attaining the smart city status

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The deployment of Information Communications Technology (ICT) tools to tackle urban health, water, transportation, schools and other issues is the hallmark of a smart city which Lagos State is aspiring to be. LUCAS AJANAKU reports that applications, such as Uberpool, could aid commuters in the city.

The free online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, has defined ‘a smart city as an urban development vision to integrate ICT and Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure fashion to manage a city’s assets.

These assets include local departments’ information systems, schools, libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, power plants, water supply networks, waste management, law enforcement, and other community services.

A smart city is promoted to use urban informatics and technology to improve the efficiency of services. ICT allows city officials to interact directly with the community and the city infrastructure and to monitor what is happening in the city, how the city is evolving, and how to enable a better quality of life. Through the use of sensors integrated with real-time monitoring systems, data are collected from citizens and devices – then processed and analysed. The information and knowledge gathered are keys to tackling inefficiency.

Wikipedia says other terms that have been used for similar concepts include cyberville, digital city, electronic communities, flexicity, information city, intelligent city, knowledge-based city, MESH city, telecity, teletopia, Ubiquitous city, wired city.

Lagos State Governor Akinwunmi Ambode has said the power of technology and collaboration in building the transport systems of the future informed his plans to remove the notorious yellow buses called Danfo from Lagos roads. This decision showed intention to reduce congestion and pollution, as well as pave way for an efficient mass transportation system that would make it easier to move around a technologically savvy, smart city.

According to experts, this is important because the country is at the forefront of urbanisation, with over 200 million people expected to live and work in its cities in the next 40 years, more than tripling the size of its current urban population. Only China and India surpass this rapid rate of urbanisation, which presents a serious challenge for the country’s transport system.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) said the average commuter in Lagos spends over three hours in traffic daily. While a new system would require significant time and investment to implement, a technology firm, Uber says it has the capacity to provide.

Its General Manager, sub-Saharan Africa, Mr Alon Lits, said  the firm has applied the philosophy of ride-sharing in cities across the world, effectively reducing congestion and environmental impact in the process. “We have experienced the benefits that technology can bring to public transport; with global positioning system (GPS) systems and constant communication, technology can make it safer for both the driver and the passenger. Every aspect of every trip becomes transparent – this provides the data to make transport more efficient and enables drivers to grow their own businesses; passengers can rely on getting to their destination on time and paying a set and transparent fee.”

At the 14th Annual Lecture of the Centre for Values in Leadership, Ambode said collection of fees was a key challenge in the Danfo system, but Lits says the government and businesses can effect change in the short term, while consumers may determine the long-term change when the right technology makes its way into the city.

If statistics from Ministry of Transportation are anything to go by, as of 2015, there were about one million registered vehicles on Lagos roads, accounting for the congestion usually experienced by motorists.

What this means is that the time to request public transport that works and is affordable and change personal habits to assist in reducing congestion, is now. Many Nigerians commute to and from the office each day, which has made a private car a necessity. Sharing transport to and from the business hubs in a smart city could change the situation.

Although Uber has not yet rolled out its Uberpool solution in Lagos, Lits said it could become an attractive solution for Lagos commuters, as it is in over 29 other cities across the globe, including emerging economies, such as Jakarta and Mumbai.

He said routes, such as Ikeja to Ikoyi, Ikoyi to Ajah and Victoria Island to Ajah are popular, and could benefit from a ridesharing solution, such as Uberpool, for efficiency. “Uberpool is simple; riders going in the same direction are matched with one another to share a ride, giving them the convenience and quality of Uber at a reduced price that fits the everyday commuter. Unlike buses, an uberpool vehicle gets the rider all the way to their destination. Because sharing isn’t the issue: its price and convenience that matter most to people,” he added.

The Lagos Ministry of Economic Planning & Budget regretted that, with the average Lagos commuter spending over three hours on increasingly congested roads, the city has experienced losses in terms of economic efficiency and other negative social effects such as road accidents.

But Lits have a different opinion, “cars are not the problem, it is how we use them that is problematic. Many vehicles on the road only have one passenger; through technology we can change every ride into a shared ride.

“The Uberpool solution has already successfully reduced congestion in San Francisco, Paris and London. In San Francisco people are choosing Uberpool up to 50 percent of the time. In cities that have Uberpool, over 20 per cent of passengers are choosing to share their ride. And the impact on cities is clear; in the first half of last year, Uberpool has reduced the number of miles driven by 312 million-that’s more than the distance between Earth and Mars.

“When getting a ride is as easy as walking into your garage and putting your keys in the ignition, there is no longer a need to own a private car at all. Combined with changed consumer habits, this could have a remarkable impact on reducing traffic congestion in Lagos,” he said.

He is optimistic that the firm will succeed in redefining the Lagos public transport, considering that in the three years since Uber launched in Lagos, it has facilitated over one million trips and partnered over 3000 driver-partners.

The company, which partners with Price Water Coopers (PwC) to ensure that each of its driver-partners knows his tax requirements also allows partners the unhindered access to the records of their net income made through the application.

He said: “Through smart-technology, we have introduced the ability to easily calculate and collect fares through the app. This and other applications of advanced technology to the Lagos transport system, perfectly positions us to roll out transport solutions on a larger scale.

“Real change will take time. It will require investment and the adaptation of existing transport structures. However, if business and government work together, we can create world-class, affordable systems that create jobs, improve efficiencies and reduce emissions. Our time operating in Lagos has reinforced to us that this is a high-growth smart city, with an important role to play in the African economy. Lagos is a mega-city, an innovation leader and a powerful driver for Africa’s largest economy. It is only fitting that the city has a smooth-running, world-class public transport system to match.”

The post Lagos: Attaining the smart city status appeared first on The Nation Nigeria.

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