The City of Windhoek’s aspirations to become a smart city by 2022, which would entail major infrastructure reinvestment and modernisation, have been thwarted because there simply isn’t enough money.
While the city’s Transformational Strategic Plan for 2017 to 2022 states that it “wishes to become a smart and caring city by 2022”, the city now says it is looking at alternative sources of funding, such as investors, local businesses and Windhoek residents, to enable the smart city evolution.
According to City of Windhoek spokesperson, Lydia Amutenya, smart cities mostly use information and communications technology to connect its people, processes, data, and things in ways that make these cities more livable by offering a better quality of life for residents, more workable by offering accelerated economic development, and more sustainable through responsible resource use.
Responding to New Era’s questions, Amutenya explained that many cities pursuing smart city services embark on this journey for various reasons, but she noted that the City of Windhoek aims to capture some of the more tangible benefits smart cities offer and for this money is needed to update the city’s mostly outdated infrastructure.
“As is most visibly apparent, this modernisation typically surpasses the municipal capacity to fund them.
Therefore, new models for funding and financing infrastructure programmes need to be considered. This has encouraged the city to engage the broader stakeholder community to build support for the programme, and interest from partners.
The city plans to use means of awareness creation and investor attraction tools by targeting both potential local and international investors, local businesses as well as the residents of Windhoek,” said Amutenya.
She further admitted that one of the biggest challenges the city faces is trying to deliver services with limited financial resources, which is a challenge being exacerbated by rapid growth in urbanisation amongst others. Amutenya said the city aims to restore its ability to govern itself more effectively by focusing on ensuring financial sustainability. “It further wishes for initiatives that focus on technological advancement, cleanliness, best practices, vibrancy, green, affordability, and innovation,” she added.
The spokesperson, however, emphasised that transforming into a smart city is not accomplished overnight or even over five years, but rather takes many years due to multiple complexities involved and changing environments.
“The smart city is more a journey than a destination and embarking on this journey requires conviction to develop the necessary foundations that demonstrate benefits and to build support for the next step,” she said.
Meanwhile, Kehad Snydewel of technology firm Green Enterprise Solutions feels it makes absolute financial sense for Windhoek to become a smart city.
“Cities are being ‘smartified’ all over the world. Windhoek is in comparison a small capital city with a relatively small population. Ensuring everyone has access to new innovations and Wi-Fi-connectivity is feasible and certainly financially viable,” he said.
Urging the city and its residents to be overtly smart city ambitious, Snydewel added: “We need to work together in public-private partnerships to make it happen. Apps like MetroGrid that allow citizens to pay municipal accounts, report leaks and engage digitally with the City of Windhoek demonstrates we are well on our way. It is, however, just the tip of the iceberg.”
Progress being made
In terms of progress, the city has commenced with the crafting of a smart city framework through the formation of a small interdepartmental implementation team and external partners.
This framework is meant to guide how the city will execute initiatives more effectively; weigh the benefits and costs of deploying each solution; phase and time the deployments; measure the progress of smart initiatives, and identify areas of improvement of smart initiatives.
Amutenya stated that the city has also begun working on smart city projects such as modernised family parks with outdoor gyms as well as non-motorised transport, which is a form of smart mobility that arose out of increasing traffic congestion.
Smart mobility can take on many different forms including ride-sharing, car-sharing, public transportation, walking, biking, and more.