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Five ways we can make African cities smarter

My family and I were recently stuck in moderate traffic in Sandton, Johannesburg, which led to a discussion between me and my kids about how traffic, and the way we deal with it as drivers, will look very different in future.

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At a minimum, my kids will fully embrace the use of connected Uber-like car-share services to get around – or even more exciting, will use driverless vehicles. The potential impact of this on cities will be tremendous, not only in terms of time and efficiency, but also from the point of view of safety and our carbon footprint.

A report by US consulting firm McKinsey & Company analysed the impact of driverless cars on the incidence of fatal traffic accidents. They claim that deaths on the road in the US will reduce by up to 90% by mid-century. This is just one of the ways that our cities could feel the benefit of smart solutions. Intelligent transport combined with safety, security and utilities management – to mention but a few – will change the face of cities fundamentally for the next generation.

According to reports by the United Nations, in the next 40 years we will see 70% of the world’s population living in cities, and water scarcity for around 1.8 billion people (predominantly in developing countries) as a result of climate change.

This chart from the UN shows how fast African cities, in particular, are expected to grow between now and 2050.

jedjling__1_-_source_united_nations

To address these challenges, an efficient and competitive city will rely on purpose-driven industrial transformations to remain sustainable. ICT will be at the centre of this transformation process. For sustainable operations, cities must use ICT in ways that not only meet stakeholders’ initial sustainability requirements, but also enable an ongoing rebalancing of needs, resources and other priorities – such as the right to privacy.

It’s clear that the way in which cities balance economic competitiveness, environmental pressures and social needs will affect the lives of billions of people. But smart, sustainable city transformations are complex and difficult. So how do we ensure that African cities become not only smarter, but more sustainable?

1. A shared vision

There are many opportunities for smart solutions within cities. The challenge is to prioritise these options to three or four key focus areas and to then successfully deliver on them. Stakeholders need shared goals and a clear idea of how to achieve them.

2. Holistic governance

Leadership structures must be capable of retaining the holistic, macro view of the city’s needs, and enable all projects to follow the common vision, integrating both ICT and environmental priorities. In this way, common platforms, data formats and monitoring systems are ensured, which will enable the sharing of information for mutual benefit between departments – something that was impossible previously.

3. The mayor and the ecosystem

Cities are made up of a complex ecosystem of stakeholders. The key is to ensure governance structures, stakeholder groups, city departments, local government, public and private enterprises work together to drive the common smart-city agenda. In this, the mayor should take a leading role.

4. ICT development

The technology landscape is evolving rapidly, so it is important to develop a continuous ICT learning culture among the city’s transformation drivers, sharing new developments and exploring emerging possibilities and approaches. Bodies such as the Smart Africa Alliance create platforms to share best practices.

5. Long-term partnerships

Broad engagement is vital when identifying and ranking the city’s pain points and stakeholders’ concerns. The smart, sustainable city value chain comprises several interconnected ICT layers: infrastructure, enablers, devices and applications. Within each of these layers, various stakeholders are involved. For example, consultation with appropriate stakeholders at the infrastructure and enabling layers can build awareness of the long-term business-case advantages for shared, standards-based infrastructure (as opposed to closed, vertical deployments). Therefore, the various stakeholders are a source of ideas and solutions that can help shape the overall vision.

Most African countries have commendable objectives of promoting technology development and creating ICT infrastructure, capability and skills to connect the unconnected and usher in the era of the internet of things. Their focus is on creating sustainable and smart cities, countries – and ultimately, continent.

This is aligned to Goal 11 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically relates to sustainable cities and communities. As drivers of change, cities now have more and better technological tools at their disposal than ever before. Becoming smart and sustainable is not a one-off achievement, but rather a continuous journey requiring ongoing engagement, innovation and progress.

To ensure the best chance of success, those shaping the future of sustainable smart cities must lay a solid foundation for transformation, based on purpose-driven planning, networked governance structures, organizational capacity building, broad stakeholder engagement and effective long-term partnerships.

This will make the journey, with or without an actual driver, an interesting one.

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Source: cnbcafrica


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Workshop17 lifts the veil on African tech and innovation

From a dusty warehouse on a working dry dock to a next generation, multi-use innovation hub designed to showcase and enable solutions to South African and African opportunities, the V&A Waterfront’s Workshop17, which officially launched today, is set to lift the veil on African tech and innovation.

The V&A Waterfront has long recognised the importance of the shared economy, and Workshop17 was born of the desire to support start-ups and experienced companies, profit and non-profit entities, and big and small initiatives, in their efforts to create a better future. It will be managed on behalf of the V&A Waterfront by OPEN, a co-working space operator and a partner in the initiative.

Housed on the upper level of the Watershed, the newly launched Workshop17 is home to over 130 tenants so far. These resident member businesses, start-ups and freelancers will all share a collaborative working environment as they work to develop their businesses, products and ideas in the long-term.

With the fastest internet available, eight fully-equipped meeting, teaching and function rooms, and ‘creative spaces’ for idea generation, creative brainstorming, and relaxing – all with incredible views over the dry dock towards Table Mountain – the Workshop17 space has been carefully designed to accommodate its vision of collaboration and modern working.

“Given the V&A Waterfront’s location and diverse visitorship, the Workshop17 platform will provide small entities with the best opportunities,” said David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront.

“Workshop17 was a seed of an idea six years ago when we recognised that we could use our resources to foster small business through an innovation hub. Today, the result is a working space with a clear vision that has a very different kind of potential that extends far beyond the walls of Workshop17. We look forward to seeing cutting-edge ideas, plans, developments and solutions that we are certain will come out of this revitalised space.”

Workshop17 has been designed to facilitate a community of talented, passionate and diverse people learning and working together to create new solutions to big and small problems, and will allow interaction between the public, entrepreneurs, innovators and designers, as well as between disciplines, sectors and cultures in its endeavours.

This new innovation hub will have a strong technology and entrepreneurial focus, which is clearly demonstrated among the partners on board for the initiative. Nigerian-born, US-based Julius Akinyemi is a founding member of the Advisory Board of Workshop17, bringing both passion for and experience in entrepreneurship to Workshop17. Based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States and the former Global Director of Emerging Technologies for PepsiCo Inc., Akinyemi will also be the hub’s first Entrepreneur in Residence.

The space itself is home to a coding academy and a growing number of small businesses, many of whom are tech-orientated, all focused on supporting its community of diverse members and associated companies.

“The V&A Waterfront’s investment in Workshop17 is intended for positive social impact, and illustrative of our goal of always investing in a responsible, impactful manner. This is an investment in people and ideas, and not one focused entirely on commercial return,” said Green.

Accelerating technology at Workshop17
The V&A Waterfront has made a strategic decision to support the creation of a tech cluster within Workshop17 to accelerate innovative products that will capitalise on the market opportunities. It also creates a platform to promote the success and rapid growth of local tech start-ups that often go unnoticed by the media.

mLab, Silicon Cape and codeX are key residents of Workshop17, specifically chosen by the V&A Waterfront because their programmes create a highly inclusive, innovative and productive environment, with a focus on growing existing and new technology businesses and creating new skills in the field of technology, all for positive social and economic impact.

“The Waterfront’s support enables us to provide a free platform for emerging coders and entrepreneurs who are often excluded from the buzzing tech ecosystem purely because they are based in townships and lower income communities. Workshop17 will create a truly inclusive environment for this talent to thrive,” said Derrick Kotze, CEO of mLab Southern Africa.

With financial support of the V&A Waterfront, this technology cluster will work to promote and build an entrepreneurial and tech ecosystem in Cape Town and ensure access to Workshop17 for talented, emerging coders and entrepreneurs. It will function as complementary to other Workshop17 events and community activities.

Source: cbn


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SA sites approved as Unesco reserves

Cape Town – The United National Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has approved the designation of the Magaliesberg and Gouritz cluster ecosystems as Biosphere Reserves.

The two biosphere reserves add to the existing portfolio of six biosphere reserves in South Africa, bringing the total of these important protected ecosystems to eight.

South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs confirmed that the designation of the Biosphere Reserves was approved at the 27th Session of the Unesco Man and Biosphere (MAB) International Coordinating Council in Paris, France, on Tuesday. The Council is being held from June 8 to 12.

Welcoming the announcement, Minister of Environmental Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa said: “South Africa is proud about the additional sites that have just been listed and the government, as the designation of these areas, supports national efforts of expansion of the conservation estate in addition to supporting the achievement of government’s development objectives”.

The Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve straddles the Gauteng and North West provinces and falls within the Bushveld Bakenveld terrestrial priority area, which has been identified as a priority area for conservation action. The site is at the interface of two great African biomes, namely, the Central Grassland Plateaux and the sub-Saharan savannah with the remnants of a third biome, the Afro-montane forest.

The Magaliesberg Reserve covers approximately 360 000 ha and was located between the Pretoria and Johannesburg in the east and Rustenburg in the west, with approximately 262 000 people living within the designated area.

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In addition, the area is endowed with scenic beauty, unique natural features, rich cultural heritage value while it is also of high archaeological interest as it includes the Cradle of Humankind, which is part of the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa World Heritage site with 4 million years of history. The area contains rich floral biodiversity, a number of faunal species, and over 45 percent of the total bird species of Southern Africa.

The second newly designated site, the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve area covers an area of more than three million hectares and straddles the Eastern and Western Cape Provinces. The area is globally unique as it is the only area in the world where three recognised biodiversity hotspots — the Fynbos, Succulent Karoo and Maputoland-Tongoland-Albany hotspots — converge.

The entire biosphere domain falls within the Cape Floristic Kingdom which is the smallest, but one of the richest of the six floral kingdoms in the world, and the only one found entirely within the boundaries of one country.

The Gouritz Reserve is home to high levels of endemic plant species, threatened invertebrates and butterfly species. It also provides a migratory route for large mammals and serves as a nursery for marine species. Due to its immense historical significance, the biosphere reserve includes three components of the internationally renowned Cape Floral Region Protected Areas World Heritage Site.

The existing Biosphere Reserves in South Africa are:

Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve (Western Cape Province, designated 1998)

Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve (Western Cape Province, designated 2000)

Waterberg Biosphere Reserve (Limpopo Province, designated 2001)

Kruger-to-Canyons Biosphere Reserve (Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga, designated 2001)

Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve (Western Cape Province, designated 2007)

Vhembe Biosphere Reserve (Limpopo Province, designated May 2009).

“The government will continue to manage its growing portfolio of biosphere reserves in collaboration with land owners, communities and other partners to ensure that we meet Unesco standards and our own national goals of sustainable development,” Molewa said in a statement on Wednesday.

Molewa indicated that the implementation of the Magaliesberg Biosphere Reserve management plan would create a number of alternative community opportunities in partnership with the private sector and mitigate negative industrial impacts in pursuit of sustainable tourism and cultural heritage development.

Molewa added that the designation of the Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve, which was South Africa’s biggest biosphere reserve, “will enhance South Africa’s status as the third most biodiverse country in the world and enhance our effort to conserve the world renowned Cape Floral region”.

Launched in 1970 by the Unesco General Conference, the Intergovernmental Man and Biosphere Programme aims to improve human environments and preserve natural ecosystems. The Programme promotes research and capacity building with the main objective of reducing the loss of biodiversity and addressing the ecological, social and economic aspects. The Unesco network of biosphere reserves connects people around the world who were pioneering a positive future for people and nature.

The South African delegation was being led by the Acting Deputy Director General for Biodiversity and Conservation in the Department of Environmental Affairs, Skumsa Mancotywa, who was supported by the Heads of Departments for Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Thandeka Mbasa and North West Department of Rural, Environment and Agricultural Development, Dr Poncho Mokaila.

Source: iol


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