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How smart city is driving real estate, urban innovations

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Prof. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka


Given the increasing rate of urban inhabitants in Africa, estimated to grow to 2.4 billion people, with most of the population increase expected to occur in the cities, the pressure to address the challenges are becoming more daunting.For instance, statistics show that about 87people move into Lagos on an hourly basis and without any plan of ever returning because cities have proven to be places for industrialization, job opportunities and innovation globally. Such movements, thus, compound the survival of the existing population rate of Lagos put at 24million.

The challenges include high incidence of informality, social inclusion, slums and poverty, lack of basic services and infrastructure, dysfunctional land and housing delivery, pollution, environmental degradation, underdeveloped manufacturing sector, unsustainable production and consumption pattern, and inefficient transport systems.

A major development gaining prominence in the global urban development discourse is the application of smart city initiative, which aims at leveraging on ICT solutions to  enhance efficiency and productivity of cities.Normatively, a ‘smart city’ is a city that balances investments in human and social capital, traditional (transport) and modern (ICT) communication infrastructure, as well as energy, sustainable economic development, high quality of life, and efficient management of natural resources, through participatory action and engagement.

To cater for the humongous population therefore, requires a number of broad governance and urban innovation elements to effectively manage and drive a smart city agenda, says a Professorial fellow at the United Nations University; Banji Oyelaran-Oyeyinka.Speaking on “Africa’s Smart City Agenda, re-positioning Africa through technology and urban innovation” at the 2018 conference organised by the Faculty of Environmental Sciences University of Lagos, Prof. Oyelaran-Oyeyinka explained that there is a need for visionary leadership that accepts the concept of smart city and embed it into a city’s long term economic plan.
   
He declared that there should be a merger of traditional laws with smart institutional regulations in ways to upgrade urban rules and standards for the dream city of the 21st century.“These regulatory guidelines could include tools that make new housing estates smarter; for example Internet based tools that collate data on household services such as transportation, energy, carbon emissions and solid waste among others. These sorts of tool also assist with routine sustainability decision-making. Cities need sustainable financing model for example through public-private partnership”.
 
He noted that the major domains/index of a smart city include, human beings, the social factor, economy, governance, urban planning, environment, mobility and transport, international outreach as well as technology.The former director at the UN-Habitat in Nairobi said; well tested smart city mechanism must promote urban competitiveness, dynamise labour market, promotes inclusion of new technologies for urban planning, construction and housing and enhances job creation.
 
“The concept has found concrete implementation in projects such as the Eko Atlantic city which is expected to house 250,000 people when completed, the hope city in Ghana which has ambition to erect the tallest skyscraper in Africa and others. Technological functions in smart cities include; smart energy, smart data, Internet of Things, urban security and smart urban infrastructure”.
   
Oyelaran-Oyeyinka who led the paper presentation at the conference, emphasised that to bring African cities back to the conventional growth path rather than consumption cities, evolving smart cities should lead to rise in productivity in manufacturing and industrial sector.

“Urbanisation can breed misery, if it is not sustainable as it creates slums, rising congestion, high property costs, higher levels of crime, insecurity and could prevent private investment and hold back growth but if properly harnessed, urbanization and strategic positioning of cities will boost production”, he stated.
     
In their presentation on, “A model for integrated smart real estate” by Umar Saidu, Mohammed Maikudi and Mohammed K, they restated that dynamism of technology and the increase complexity of real estate management practice have prompted the need to integrate Wireless Sensor Network (WSN), Internet of Things (IoT) and the cloud computing in managing real estates.
   
The experts said there is a need to focus on developing the model using the emerging technologies that can solve conventional problems in real estate. Such problems they said include; complex data handling, information gathering and dissemination, maintenance and provision of services.The use of the emerging technologies, they disclosed, would make property management operations more efficient by reducing cost with less energy and time.

In his keynote address, the outgoing Germany Consulate General in Lagos; Mr. Ingo Herbert noted that  “Smart cities” are mostly defined as cities that “put data and digital technology to work with the goal of improving the quality of life stressing that it is also about vision, not about Information Communication Technology.
 
“The German government has recently published a study “The move of humanity: The transformative power of cities. Following this study the German government created a dialogue platform called “Smart Cities” with not only representatives of the public sector among the nearly 70 participants, but also members of the business and scientific community as well as the civil society. In a nearly one-year dialogue process including five thematic meetings and two international workshops all participants agreed on a “Smart City Charter – Making digital transformation at the local level sustainable”.
   
Herbert said as the public discourse on smart cities is nowadays focused on the technical aspects and options of digitalization, the dialogue platform is therefore aimed at broadening the debate and inviting to a reflection on what cities really need and considering the traditional tasks of what makes cities really smart.

“Africa Smart City Agenda it seems to me is following the same approach, what do African cities really need and what in the current world-wide debate on “Smart cities” would make them really smart? digitalization and technology are only a tool never the content and the goal. The latter must by determined by all stakeholders of a city – governments, private sector and the participating citizens themselves”.
   
Earlier, the Lagos state commissioner for housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal and the commissioner for science and technology; Hakeem Fahm said the ministry is collaborating with the academia and professionals in the built sector to upgrade the state into a super star city.“Our goal is just to have a real estate and Lagos that works and that would have the security of property. We still have the challenges of title issue, land use on daily basis in the last few years. We have therefore introduced e-land permit, e-Certificate of Occupancy and now we have smart city coming up. I believe that soon, the Lagos city will be compared with other super star cities like New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and London”.
    
The Chairman, Local Organising Committee of the conference, Prof. ’Leke Oduwaye explained that with the approval of the Faculty Board of Studies, the LOC embarked on rigorous search for problem and solving contemporary issues that will attract wide range of disciplines, create synergy and collaboration.  


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