Half of the world's people already live in urban areas, and in the coming two decades the urban population is expected to grow to 6 billion. If properly managed, this urbanization trend (has been and) will be an opportunity, since urban areas have long been engines of economic growth and center of transformation.
Cities are also known to be incubators of innovation that stimulate economic and social development. In line with these opportunities, Ethiopian cities are experiencing a huge social, economic and political growth.
A number of policy and legal frameworks were instituted to support urbanization, accompanied with considerable amount of resource invested in strengthening local urban governance and service delivery.
Capacity Building Decentralized Service Delivery Public Sector Capacity Building Program and Urban Local Government Development Program are some of the large scale interventions in urban development in Ethiopia.
Jantirar Abay, Minister of Urban Development and Housing, said that Ethiopian cities, having very little experience of self-governance, are confronted with enormous governance and service delivery challenges.
Undeveloped local governance system, poor urban planning and design practices, lack of resources to finance urban infrastructure and undeveloped information technology system are among the numerous challenges.
He explained that from the global and Ethiopian perspectives, it is clearly observable that cities are confined area were we found both the opportunity and challenge entangled with each other. Therefore, cities are better placed to think more holistically about development. It is the place where we can better think and act to eradicate poverty, to ensure development and social transformation.
He stressed that nowadays in managing such cities, the idea of smart city, smart village and use of information technology as basic tool is not a luxury. It is rather a must, and it is becoming the only way for development and good governance institutionalization.
Next African IT Leaders Workshop, with specific theme of Technology Commercialization for Smart City and Village will facilitate a sharing of information and experience on the development of technology in Africa, and best practices and technology transfer for smart city and smart village development.
According to the Minister, the idea of smart city and smart village is new to our country and the development and usage of information technology is in its infant stage.
As to him, as a nation, since our objective is to have middle income and prosperous nation and ensure good governance, we need to learn more, learn fast and work hard in developing and using information technology as one of the basic tool of our development and good governance institutionalization endeavor.
"In this regard, global attention and concrete action from all the actors, and development partners like the Korean advances institute of technology, Korean development institute, the Africa Development Bank and others in supporting local authorities in terms of capacity building and mobilization of resources in developing our cities information technology capacity will be critical," he said.
"The 'Ethiopian Urban management Information System Establishment Project', which is going to get launched in the near future with the support of Korean National IT Industry Promotion Agency(NIPA) is a real example of cooperation." he noted.
He said that this gathering will be instrumental in promoting the agenda, and to get its deserving attention by all parties. "It will also serve as an experience sharing platform, and highlight the promising possibilities and key action areas to make the idea of smart city and village a reality at a scale and complexity that the new urban city century demands".
Mekuria Haile, former Minister of Ministry of Urban Development and Housing, for his part indicated that as Korea is highly developed in terms of utilization of technology the assistance and experience of this country is significant for a country like Ethiopia. He noted that it is possible to create smart city by transforming traditional service delivering system to modernized one.
To this end, KAIST global IT Technology Program, in collaboration with the Ministry of Science and ICT of Korea, are organizing a workshop to pave the way for Ethiopia to get assistance from Korea.
"Now Korean Ministry of Science and ICT vowed to help Ethiopia in this endeavor by transferring technology to citizens of Ethiopia through education training opportunity on Information technology", he concluded.