Richard Iweanoge, General Manager Consumer Market at MTN Nigeria Friday told #TechPlus2016 in Lagos that the concept of Smart City cannot be achievable without connectivity.
Iweanoge, the MTN Nigeria executive, who was one of the panelists that discussed the topic “A Smart & Connected City: Transportation, Homes, Workplaces & Schools” #TechPlus2016 underway in Lagos says connectivity, which is paramount to any smart city, is a space that the mobile phone company, MTN, has been working to improve.
“The idea of smart city is all about access and connectivity which typically is what we do. You wouldn’t have a smart city if you can’t connect, if you don’t have devices that talk to each other, if you can’t collect data, analyse data and use data to do things. So, clearly connectivity is the very backbone of having a smart city,” Iweanoge told the #TechPlus2016 attendees.
According to the MTN Nigeria executive, just having connectivity is not enough but having a really fast connectivity is what matters most to realising the vision of a smart city.
He says that “people need to be able to have instant response, otherwise you have a very slow access through connectivity and what happens is that it’s all dull and the experience is so terrible.”
Also the MTN Nigeria GM of Consumer Marketing adds that, “we do have a licence to offer LTE which is the fastest—in a layman’s term—way of having connectivity and we intend to blanket Lagos and the main cities with LTE connectivity.”
According to him, once you have that backbone set up already, once you have that coverage and access done, that begins to give people the opportunity to unleash their creativity in terms of the kind of things they can do. But is is first important to have each other connected and two, to have the city connected.
He cited the lingering problem of Lagos traffic and suggested that it could be solved by a technology-driven transportation model.
“When I think about Lagos, I think about the whole issue of self-driven cars and I am asking myself if we have an efficient transportation system driven by technology, we will get rid of the gridlock, get rid of the time waste, use that time for more productive things and be a more productive society”, according to Iweanoge.
Another panelist, Josep Ramon Ferrer, ex-Smart City Director of Barcelona in Spain while sharing his experience in the Spanish disclosed that it is all about planning what a city wants to be in the next 20 or 30 years.
“The technology of smart city concept is the driver to achieve our goals and in our case when we began our adventure into smart city, we understood that we need to plan what the city really wants for the next 20, 30 years and now we are in the digital era, then the technology is the driver to transport all things in the city”, Ferrer told the #TechPlus2016 attendees.
“Smart city is a brand, at the same time I think smart city is a good opportunity to build the city for the next 20, 30 years and the goal is people, the goal is economical world, the goal is sustainability,” Ferrer adds.
Also contributing, Alon Lits, General Manager, Sub-Saharan Africa at Uber while acknowledging the prospect of self-driven cars as a great idea however says we don’t have to wait for that before making our cities smart.
“I think we don’t need a self driving car to get smart solutions in our cities, Lits says. “We talk about traffic in Lagos where people basically going to same direction spend like three hours on the road.
“Imagine we can merge those people and get them to share ride using technology and that technology exists today. If we do that we can reduce the number of cars on the road and reduce congestion and get Lagos moving in a formal and efficient manner,” the Uber Manager says.
But policy makers and private sector have to change their mentality if smarty city will happen in Nigeria, according to another panellist, Nkemdilim Begho of Future Software Resources Nigeria ltd.
She challenged #TechPlus2016 attendees to ask why there are many people are on the road, why they can’t work from home, going for meetings they could have done on Skype or phone as that will help them understand the kind of innovation needed to transform into a smart city.
Begho is however of the opinion that Nigeria needs to fix its electricity problems first before thinking of smart cities.
“The last thing I will say is our good old NEPA, the electricity problem that we have, we need to solve that before we can even think of anything that is smart,” Begho says.
Professor Joan Enric Ricart and Rodney Williams were also part of the panel discussion and they believe that the concept of smart city is about opportunities, prosperity and freedom for the people to operate in many fronts at a given time through the help of technology.