Johannesburg — THE concept of smart cities must go beyond the conventional urban centres but to rural areas where millions do not access some basic services.
This is the view of a senior administrator in the energy sector as municipalities embrace the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) to enhance service delivery.
"The idea of creating 'smart cities' does not have to take place only in traditional urban areas but can also be in rural and remote areas, where people do not have access to basic electricity or water," said Taru Madangombe, Vice President of Power Systems (Anglophone Cluster) for Schneider Electric.
He said there was a need for off grid and mini-grid systems so that the basic needs of electricity, running water and other services could be provided to areas that lacked access.
"Providing power is more than just 'lights on', it is a means towards economic development," Madangombe said.
He said it was vital that those supplying technologies such as solar and wind power provided off grid systems and ensure those technologies made it easier for people especially in rural areas, to work and learn skills that would contribute to the digital economy.
"South Africa has a need to provide low cost or even free energy to millions of people who cannot access hot water, mobile chargers, television or home lighting and the concept of microgrids, smart grids and smart cities will bring this aspiration nearer to the populations of both rural areas and densely populated cities."
Smart cities rely on smart grid technology that includes traditional and renewable energy sources in its mix of power supply.
Driven by the advanced technology of the 4IR the smart grid technology is able to include coal-based energy and renewable energy sources to create a seamless analysis of power usage and problems.