FG Mulls Communications Bank, As Shittu Identifies Key To Smart City Success
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By Rommy IMAH
Minister of Communications, Barrister Adebayo Shittu has identified appropriate policy definition as the key to guaranteeing Smart city success as well as in promoting the construction of the new digital citizenship.
This is even as the minister announced that the Nigerian government was contemplating on the need to establish an ICT University and Communications Bank which will be a development bank that will assist in the financing of communication and ICT companies based in Nigeria.
The minister who spoke at the 3rd Edition of the Transform Africa Space Summit which held in Kigali, Rwanda last week noted that one of the biggest challenges for public policy, innovations in governance and business opportunities in the 21st century was the 2015 UN World Urbanisation Report which estimated that 66% of the world population will be living in cities by 2050.
“This is happening at a time in which cities face major ecologic, economic and social challenges: Forecasts indicate that several thousand new cities will be built or rebuilt quickly. Africa cannot be an exception to this trend,” he said.
While acknowledging technology as an important ingredient of smart cities, the minister stated that there was an evolutionary change and almost all successful smart cities owe their success to a clever blend of policy innovation, leadership, and building collaborations while technology remains a necessary but underlying common ground.
According to him, “In recent years, we have witnessed a significant increase of concern and frustration among the dwellers in our urban cities of the challenges and pressure occasioned by living in the city. These include demographic change, globalization, environmental and climate protection, mobility and transportation, safety and security, knowledge-based society etc.
“There is no doubt that the concept of Smart City, therefore, varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change, reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents.”
Barrister Shittu who noted that the challenges faced by smart initiatives in different countries will be diverse advocated the development of innovations that will address the continent’s specific issues adding that there is a need for greater collaboration between all African countries and the development partners.
With particular reference to Nigeria, the minister noted that the recent inauguration of the reconstituted Nigerian National Broadband Council and the Inter-Ministerial Committee on the Smart City Project was aimed at assisting the government in providing diverse and global input in developing a comprehensive framework to help public and private stakeholders to make informed decisions about Smart City investment strategies thereby diversifying the economy, boosting technology tourism, generating the much-needed revenue for government, and creating employment for the teaming youth population.
While noting that the concept of Smart City varies from city to city and country to country, depending on the level of development, willingness to change, reform, resources and aspirations of the city residents, the minister said that this, however, required comprehensive development of physical, institutional, social and economic infrastructure, as all of them are important in improving the quality of life and attracting people and investments to the city, setting in motion a virtuous cycle of growth and development.
“This administration under the leadership of His Excellency, President Muhammadu Buhari, GCON through the Ministry of Communications has developed cogent policies, frameworks, and guidelines on combating these challenges and transforming and making our cities ‘smarter’. The Nigerian ICT Road Map 2016-2019, the National Strategic Plan 2016-2024, eGovernment master plan implementation, and the Nigerian Smart City Initiative domiciled in the Ministry are some of the initiatives by government toward addressing these issues,” Barrister Shittu said.
The minister who observed that Africa still has a long way to go noted that it was only through a joint and concerted effort that the continent will be able to reach her fundamental goal and objective. He also announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria has commenced a working relationship with Rwanda government on the maximum use of ICT to improve the financial inclusiveness of Nigerians.
“We had to bury our pride and visited Rwanda in January this year to learn how Rwanda has advanced in their technological know-how and how they have used communication and ICT to improve the living standard of their citizens.
“I am humble to admit that Rwanda has surpassed Nigeria in Information and Communications Technology (ICT). Nigeria is very large but we are ready to learn from the Rwanda’s experience and we have agreed to reinvent their partnership for development. We have also agreed to form Rwanda-Nigeria foundation as a platform that will lead to the signing of trade deals and exchange of skills,” the minister said.
Barrister Shittu called on African countries to focus on how to connect more homes, get more people online, reach out to the marginalized and vulnerable groups, with due consideration for affordability.