By Alfred Vanderpuije
This week at the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, leaders will come together to discuss Africa’s future. One of the three focus themes is the importance of ‘Strategic Infrastructure’ as a foundation for the continent’s growth. As Mayor of Accra and Chief Executive of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly, I would say that there are few areas as crucial for infrastructure investment as cities.
Buoyed by an emerging oil and gas industry and a rapidly growing consumer class, Ghana’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the world. Investors are flocking to the country’s capital Accra to take advantage of new business opportunities and become part of this success story. Mastercard recently identified Accra as one of Africa’s top cities in terms of economic growth potential over the next few years. Local and foreign firms are also driving a number of urban development opportunities such as Ghana Cyber City, King City and Appolonia City which aim to set up modern, high-tech hubs within and around Accra. Continue Reading »
By Ahmed Simjee
When I was growing up in South Africa, my family was fortunate. We had access to fresh drinking water. At first we lived on a small farm near Johannesburg, where we used a well. Later, when I moved closer to the city, I had good tap water. But many of my fellow South Africans weren’t so lucky, and, even today, many people in the rural areas and in informal settlements near the cities don’t have ready access to fresh drinking water. That’s why I’m extremely pleased to be spearheading an initiative in South Africa, WaterWatchers, which is aimed at using mobile phones and crowdsourcing to cut down on leaks and wasted water.
We’re launching our free WaterWatchers app today in Gauteng Province, home of Johannesburg and the capital city, Tshwane. With 12.3 million residents, the province represents 23% of South Africa’s population. We timed the launch to coincide with the United Nations’ World Water Day. If you’re in South Africa, please download the app. Continue Reading »
By Jonathan Taplin
Before I became a university professor, I had a long career in the entertainment business–first as a concert producer for the likes of Bob Dylan and The Band, and later as producer of motion pictures, including Martin Scorsese’s Mean Streets and The Last Waltz.
Both the music and movie industries have been utterly transformed by the Internet, in positive and negative ways. But I sense that we’re still at the beginning stages of this big shift, and that some of the most interesting developments are yet to come. For example, social sentiment analysis is going to change the game for Hollywood marketing.
Evidence of the changes and challenges to come is abundant in the Film Forecaster analysis that USC Annenberg Innovation Lab and IBM conducted over the past few weeks at the front end of the holiday movie viewing season. It also surfaced in an LA event we hosted on Wednesday night, A Night Behind the Movies, where the panel included Robert Friedman, co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group.
Heading into the second week of September, the hallways of the Los Angeles School District (LAUSD) are already buzzing with the sounds of students and teachers settling in for another school year.
Similar to many other schools around the nation, LAUSD is also facing another year of budget cuts to several of its education programs and extracurricular activities. In fact, a survey from the American Association of School Administrators cites that more than 8 in 10 school districts in the U.S. are inadequately funded for the coming year. Clearly, we all must do more with less.
We chose to tackle this problem head on and find innovative ways where we could help reduce costs and keep the focus on our number one priority: the students.
Smarter Cities are defined as cities that provide sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life by leveraging information to make better decisions, anticipating problems to resolve them proactively, and, coordinating resources and processes to operate effectively.
How can cities become Smart by leveraging what they have? What kind of investments do we need to build a transformed city? Often, the thrust is on the kind of investment that needs to be pumped in to start the journey. 1 Trillion USD? You guessed it wrong.
There is a common misconception that “Smart Cities” would need tons of IT investment. While this is a truth to reach the nirvana stage, our city leaders can take small actionable steps in the right direction to imbibe smartness. What is required is a systemic thinking and a governance mechanism to engage citizens and the available infrastructure with common-sense tools to start on the journey of smart. Typically, cities have the highest mobile density and broadband penetration, and it is very easy to put these technologies to use to make cities smarter.
A strong collective will to use our resources optimally, and create infinite value out of it, can begin the journey towards a transformed planet, And, all this can be achieved by the innovative applications of the existing technologies, and available resources. How do we attain that? This needs better synergy between the ecosystem of city planners, municipalities, public and private entities.
Driving our cities as engines of economic growth would require an integrated approach, coupled with instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence. The above may seem to suggest that there is a need for strong infrastructure and instrumentation on top of it, so that cities can be viewed as a system of systems and can be managed accordingly.
Consider this. What do we get when social business can be put to use for citizen government interactions? The low hanging fruits on the journey to become a smarter city.
Some of the following examples cite some interesting innovations and how social business can be harnessed in the journey to smart. Imagine a scenario where there is mobile app that allows people to take photo of energy meter readings and upload to the utilities company’s website. On one hand, the citizens get a monetary discount and on the other the utility company gets accurate readings without investing in foot soldiers.
Think of a scenario where there is an app that allows people to take photos of violations (of any kind – traffic, unauthorized power tapping, water leakages and so on), geo tag it and upload to a website. Apart from allowing for faster resolution, this allows to create a pressure point on the local administration based on the number of complaints that come from any specific area (e.g. ward).
Another scenario could be where the traffic police can seek feedback on proposed one way rules (which is aplenty in many cities) or seek feedback on how to decongest certain stretches.
Well, the possibilities are enormous, and endless are the opportunities – all it takes is thought leadership and some jugaad innovation. Few steps in the right direction will ignite citizen participation in governance and that can be a self-propelling machine that takes a city to smarter level. Are we ready?
Check out other ideas for progress at India Onward, an IBM India initiative.