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Power, intelligent systems at the heart of the ‘smart city’ concept

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The ability to leverage off eco-friendly technology, apply intelligent systems and create a sustainable knowledge-based economy is just one of several challenges that lie between regions and their acquiring ‘smart city’ status.

Musa Nkosi, CEO of BWired. (Image: BWired)

This is the view of those at the epicentre of developments surrounding the construction of fully inter-connected zones managed and run with intelligent systems, otherwise known as ‘smart cities’.

A ‘Smart City’ is established when several components, namely e-Health, e-Learning, e-Governance, residential and enterprise, are combined to facilitate connectivity for everyone within the city perimeter.

According to this criteria all key facets of society are connected and residents can take advantage of anything from online medical consultation to distance learning, and will notice visible differences to general governance including public security and surveillance and power management systems.

Musa Nkosi is the CEO of BWired, a local empowered telecommunications service provider and joint venture between Ericsson South Africa and the City of Johannesburg.

According to Nkosi it is more than just understanding or realising the concept of a smart city it’s taking the fundamental steps to effect change and start the transition to a knowledge based economy – herein lies the true challenge he says.

“When a society becomes knowledge-based, it faces challenges on a variety of levels. How and why knowledge is produced and shared, where it is produced, how knowledge spill-overs affect new knowledge creation and parameters of use, changes in strategic decision making in knowledge-based environments and how public policy can and should adapt all are crucial issues.  In a knowledge-based economy, knowledge is a tool,” he says.

“There is a need for technological innovations to ensure we remain globally competitive. In the knowledge economy, the specialised labour force is characterised as computer literate and well-trained in handling data, developing algorithms and simulated models, and innovating on processes and systems. Today’s economy is far more dynamic and comparative advantage is less relevant than competitive advantage which rests on “making more productive use of inputs, which requires continual innovation,” he continues.

Nkosi says power generation and consumption is a critical facet of the formulation of a smart city.

There is increased focus in being able to support existing services and companies like Eskom continues to look at solar sources to “bring power back to the grid.”

“This is important and metropolitans and municipalities have to consider their roles in bringing power back to the grid.”

Power generation aside, Nkosi emphasised the importance of eco-friendly infrastructure and ICT implementation as part of deliverables.

“It has been states that ten percent penetration of broadband equates to one percent growth of GDP,” he says.

He adds that whilst there are challenges to the formation of domestic smart cities, including low penetration of Internet, access to broadband, resources, services and available skills, the opportunity for Africa to get it right is here.

Chris Tredger, Online Editor


  1. Its interesting to think about 'knowledge' being treated as a commodity that can be harnessed to increase GDP.

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