Vanguard (Lagos)

Nigeria: Can Lagos Be a Smart City?

opinion

I AM constantly amazed at the advances in information and communication technology, such that inventions and innovations being celebrated this week may become near-obsolete the following week as an even better option might have been developed.

The way things are going, there will be very few things left that can be done without the aid of an ICT device, or without interfacing with some digitalized facility.

Equally interesting are the programmes launched by some of the world's leading ICT firms, in living xperience is digitalized when fully functional. I speak of Cisco's Internet of Things, SAP's Enterprise Asset Management, and IBM's Smarter Cities Challenge, as examples. If here, we could adopt one or all of these programmes and bring them to impact on our infrastructure system, then we could leapfrog into the comity of advanced nations and achieve Vision 20-2020 in real time.

The IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is here with us as the firm has begun marketing its potentials to relevant markets. Launched in 2011, the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge is a three-year, 100-city, US$50 million competitive grant programme. It is IBM's single-largest CSR effortthrough which the firm assigns a team of six top experts to each winning city to study a key issue identified by the city's leadership.

Last week, the IBM team proposed technology-driven strategies to make Lagos traffic move. Working with LAMATA, the team proposed better coordination between agencies responsible for traffic management, police, fire and medical care. More efficient decison-making would be based on data gathering and analysis from a variety of sources such as cell phones, call centres, cameras, and global positioning systems devices. This accurate and up-to-date information would assist the agencies better manage traffic flow. It would also enable them to wirelessly provide travelers with information such as road and traffic conditions, as well as bus, boat and toll schedules.

Also included among the proposals was a single, integrated e-ticketing system for all modes of transportation (similar to New York City's Metro Card or London's Oyster card systems) and integrated fare management. The introduction of roadway toll rates based on traffic density would also help encourage the use of public transportation, bringing less pollution and increased revenue. The state was also advised to create a single platform for all its traffic and transportation-related data, integrating all agencies and modes of transport, allowing seamless passenger transfers.

Beautiful proposals, and dizzyingly exciting if it can be implemented. If Lagos State Government accepts the proposals, it would radically transform our metropolis from the clutter and tangle of traffic snarls that is current experience to a manageable, people friendly, efficient and reliable system.

It also means we retrieve the transport system from the tender mercies of the nation's most pernicious minds and wipe out the notorious, gangland-model agbero system. The transport unions, as currently structured both in membership and operation are also due for reforms.

But I have my fears. Can we muster the political will to confront and cage these monstrous issues and institutions? The Lagos State Government must summon that will, for the sake of the rest of Nigeria, and the survival of the emerging mega city, which is already endangered with the kind of transport system we have.

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