Driven by booming populations and the desire to showcase their capabilities to the rest of the world, governments in our region recognize the role that smart cities can play in responding to growth and preparing for the future. I for one can testify that smart technologies and innovative services are already integral components of everyday life for residents across much of the region.
But what has made the region so successful in its adoption of the connected digital cities model?
The META Advantage
So, what makes the Middle East, Turkey, and Africa special? One of the main limitations of creating a smart city is the impact of legacy infrastructure. Upgrading existing services, transportation and security systems to fit a new era of innovation is time consuming, costly and complex compared to creating new infrastructure from the ground up.
While this can limit the development of some established cities, it actually gives many locations in the META region an advantage. Several projects within the region are on greenfield sites, whether a new area of a city like Dubai’s Expo 2020 site, or a new city altogether, for example Kenya’s “Silicon Savannah” smart city, Konza. Working on such projects, governments have the flexibility to plan and design every element to be fit for purpose, as opposed to repurposing existing operations, from optimizing traffic signals to ease congestion, to monitoring energy consumption to reduce waste.
The Impact of Data
For a smart city to be truly successful, big data needs to be leveraged to develop innovative solutions and allow services to be tailored to users in real time. To address the need for efficient and open data sources, Cape Town has created an Open Data Portal and Dubai an Open Data Law, where all data collected in the cities is publicly available in anonymous form to protect the privacy of residents. This also helps alleviate resource limitations within governments, as private organizations can leverage information to create innovative smart data solutions contributing to the development of the smart city.
Keeping Residents at the Heart of the Connected City
A true Connected City should engage all its citizens, including those who are less tech savvy. To reap the benefits of smarter tools and apps, citizens need dashboards and user-centric interfaces, along with solutions which will have a genuine positive impact on their lives.
This objective should remain the focus of smart city creation, something which we see multiple examples of within the META region. Istanbul has seen a population increase over the last 60 years, and is now home to around 18% of Turkey’s total population. Hence it’s initiatives focus on managing crowds to maintain a good quality of life, for example, through creating efficient and environmentally friendly transportation. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) has announced plans for a $500B mega-city which will use artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions to give residents services previously unavailable in Saudi Arabia, such as free high speed internet and government e-services. Both projects are focused on the experience of residents, identifying their needs and finding creative solutions.
As global technology leader Dell Technologies aims to create and implement industry-leading solutions for the smart connected cities of the future. Follow me on Twitter or LinkedIn and share your thoughts on what makes a connected city truly smart.