Emma Okonji

Barely few weeks after Nigeria was spotted by GSMA Mobile 360 Africa as one of the African countries that the world should look up to for smart cities development in Africa, the quarterly eNNovators Breakfast Series forum organised by eMaginationsPR in Lagos on Tuesday, identified critical infrastructure and payment model as some of the key factors that must be considered, when developing smart cities.

GSMA Mobile 360 Africa series, an annual telecoms forum, which held last month in Tanzania, listed Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya as top African countries that are applying technology to boost social lifestyle of their citizens, through their smart cities project.

Speaking at the eNNovators Breakfast Series forum, discussants listed critical infrastructure and payment model as key to smart cities development. According to them, smart cities must be planned with the relevant infrastructure in place that are not proprietary.

A former Managing Director of Chams, Mr. Demola Aladekomo, whose company is involved in smart cities project in Lagos, identified critical infrastructure such as incubator centres, good roads, university academy, recreational centres among others, as important in smart cities project.
Telecoms lawyer, Basil Udotai advised smart cities developers to also consider legal issues that may arose in the areas of spectrum management and connectivity that uses the white space spectrum. He said most service providers may want to use the white space technology spectrum, which allows them to offer services over certain platforms like Wechat, WhatsApp, FaceBook, Instagram, among others that are relatively free, thereby short-changing service providers that had paid heavily for licensed spectrum, with which they provide telecoms services to the masses.

The telecoms lawyer also pointed out the issue of cybercrime and security in planning smart cities, since there are lots of online criminal activities going on across regions. He said Nigerian cybercrime bill that was recently passed into law, would go a long way in addressing online crimes in a smart city environment. The issue of data connectivity and control was also raised by Udotai as part of the critical infrastructure that must be considered when developing smart cities.

Chairman, Smart Cities Working Group, sponsored by the Central Bank of Nigeria, Chioma Nkechika, who drew the attention of the forum to the payment model for a smart city environment, said the payment model must be factored into the early plan of a smart city development initiative, so as to have seamless payment model. Citing UBA Taxi as an example, Nkechika said the metro taxi company had a global payment system of receiving cash in dollar denomination, but that the payment system had to be altered in Nigeria to naira denomination, after few months of doing business in Nigeria, for scarcity of dollar.

“The mode of payment for goods and services in any smart city environment must be considered, be it in Euro, pound sterling, dollar or naira. When UBA Taxi first entered Nigeria, they were receiving payments in dollars but few months later it became a challenge for them when dollar became very scarce, and they had to redesign the system to accept payments in naira,” Nkechika said.

Other areas identified by the forum about smart city planning, include whether to develop a smart city in an entirely new environment or redesign it in an existing community. Some of the participants were of the view that moving a smart city to an entirely new environment outside a community would cost more, and also compel people to migrate from one environment to another, while others were of the view that it could cause congesting, should smart cities be developed in an existing community of people.

The forum called on the private sector and the government to consider smart cities development, using the most advance technology, to make life much easier for people.