Globally the role of cities and metropolitan regions is increasing. With urbanisation being a reality, cities have to deal with greater transport congestion, waste disposal, provision of housing and utilities such as water and electricity. At the same time, technology has developed to such an extent that, as Gartner predicts the blurring of the physical and digital world, it means that Smart products will become part of every day life. But how can the City of Cape Town work with business partners to harness this digital peak? This is what was discussed at our recent Digital Cape Town event with André Stelzner, CIO of the City of Cape Town and Damien Callaghan, Senior Director of the Internet of Things at Intel.

André Stelzner stated that the City of Cape Town has the highest rate of urbanisation in South Africa and has had a population increase of 50% in the past 18 years. Fortunately the City moved to a single IT platform as a result of the merging of a number of municipalities in 2000 allowing the City to look at how ICT can be used to drive transformation. With connectivity and the lack of infrastructure being a big issue, the City has embarked on a digital infrastructure strategy by rolling out a core fibre network. This has specifically been to areas such as clinics in townships where commercial providers have not seen value. The City of Cape Town will spend R 185 million in the current financial year, with additional Western Cape Government funding of R11.8 million for broadband infrastructure and R23.7 million  for the Digital Inclusion Project (wi-fi). The City is also rolling out 180 wi-fi access points and plan to build another 120 in this financial year. As part of the Digital City Strategy, the City is focussing on the four pillars of Digital Economy, Digital Infrastructure, Digital Government and Digital Inclusion which will be discussed in an additional workshop.

Damien Callaghan highlighted how the Internet of Things and Smart Cities are currently buzz words with many cities embarking on Smart City projects, but with some key learnings. The Internet of Things means that, with sensors, everything can be monitored. Data can be analysed and actions taken to address any issues with systems in buildings, transportation and resource management, as practical examples. Cost reduction in the past ten years, means the Internet of Things is even more of a reality: broadband is down 40 times, processing is down 60 times, sensors are down 2 times. With all the data gathered from the Internet of Things, security is a big issues that needs to be addressed. Other key learnings include: with lots of hype, you need to focus on the commercial model; for implementation, focus on the project with the least resistance and fewest organisational boundaries; data has a value and cities must determine what additional information can be obtained from it – the issue still remains of who owns this data; most importantly, understand that you cannot do this alone, so create a small group of partners on this journey.

Accelerate Cape Town will unpack the City of Cape Town’s Digital City Strategy further with our members in a workshop on 26 Nov. Please also see our photos from this Digital Cape Town event.