‘Why technology is central to Lagos development’
Technology is crucial to the development of Lagos State and the governor is exploring it for even development. Lagos State Commissioner for Science and Technology, HAKEEM FAHM, said the state government is exploring technology to ease the pressure, including the teething problems of intra-city transportation. He spoke with reporters at the weekend, ADEYEMI ADEPETUN reports.
We have been dealing with a smart city in Lagos and now there are talks around the city being among Africa Small Town Network (AsTON). Could you shed more light on this?
We know the importance of technology lately because we have had to look at how to become more efficient and make life more comfortable for the people in the cities. So, we are taking these steps in the long run to become more efficient.
The main purpose of AsTON and the cities involved is collaboration, which is the ability to learn from each other. AsTON provides us the opportunities to learn from them. Collaboration is the key and that is what AsTON is all about. It is very important for us to acknowledge the effort Governor Babajide SanwoOlu is making to ensure the state leverages the power of technology.
In Lagos State, technology is anchored with education in the THEMES agenda, the third pillar. At the same time, technology is the bedrock of other pillars and we are proud to say that we are going to provide the necessary support to engage our citizens and also provide the needed technology to run the affairs of the state. So, Lagos will be looking to improve many platforms that we have. We are not only improving but also innovating. What we are learning from AsTON is really going to take us further because Lagos is not an island per say, but the state has to network with other places to make sure that we deliver on the power of technology and what the citizens want.
What is Lagos collaborating on and what role is technology going to play in mobility?
In the case of Lagos, we have identified mobility. What we are doing in this area, first to participate in AsTON all the cities would have to pick an area. Some are automation, tax collection improvement and the likes. In Lagos, the focus on AsTON is mobility. On this, we have a lot of programmes in place and they are in two folds.
The first one is to make sure that we sensitise our citizens on the rules and regulations that exist in the state so that everyone can live in an environment that will be beneficial to each other. The population of Lagos is increasing almost on a daily basis. We have challenges in transportation. To address that, we need to look at where we were before now and where we are now. Today, we have a multimodal form of transportation, leveraging buses, water and now looking at taking advantage of mass transit in the areas of rail transportation. So, we need to prepare our citizens to be ready to adopt this multimodal transportation means. The critical aspect of it is the sensitisation; preparing their mind for things to come, and technology will be central.
We also need to ensure that buses are clean and reliable, among others. We engage the operators on this. In all, we want to make sure there is enforcement. Violators will be prosecuted. Our focus at AsTON is mobility, which is very strategic.
How long has this AsTON project been and what is Lagos adopting from other cities?
We have been in the AsTON programme for over two years. We have attended seminars and events relating to AsTON in other cities. About five months ago, we were in Niamey, Niger Republic, to look at what they are doing there to share experience.
We also visited Kigali in Rwanda. We learnt so many things from them, exploring some of the innovations in the town. We looked at the way their CCTV operates, and we adopted some of their technicalities. The CCTV project started in Ikeja and we are expanding it to other parts of the state.
We deploy CCTV for safety to attract investors and secure the town. We are in the second phase of the project. The governor is committed to all these and other stakeholders. The AsTON is a union that is working for all the cities involved. We commend the efforts of sponsors from France.
Who is funding the project and how far with the deployment of the CCTV cameras?
The camera will benefit everyone in the state. In order to implement the cameras, we have to ensure that we have the infrastructure on ground. The main hub of the technology is at Alausa and everything is spreading from there to other parts of the state. Remember the governor announced the deployment of 6000km of fibre. That fibre is part of the conduit carrying the CCTV signals. Anywhere we can connect the fibre to would have the CCTV. As you know, once you have the camera, the people feel more secure and criminalities would reduce. It is going to be beneficial to us. So, the coverage is going to be statewide, but from the capital to other parts.
The project is being facilitated from France. The funding from AsTON came from AfDB. There is a portion from the state, also from AfDB. We are working together and the project management function is coming from AfDB.
Can we know the project levels?
The first phase of it is exploration. What we did was to look at all the different things that we can do with technology and we selected the most pressing one, which is mobility; mobility because we know the challenge we have on this in Lagos. We believe that if we solve the technicalities, it will reduce the hassles people go through and make them more effective. We took mobility after considering other stakeholders involved in the process.
The second phase is the engagement level. We constantly talk to stakeholders involved in the process, including the citizens on what to do. About two months ago, we had an engagement with stakeholders here in Alausa.
The third phase is the experimentation. We cannot solve all the problems in the state at once, we have to pick an area and experiment with it. The experiment made us know where adjustments are needed; from there, we can actually plan for statewide implementation.
It is important to study what we planned to do and how we will get there. The final phase, the experimentation, is likely to end by June this year.
Sensitization is in top gear, including the involvement of the traditional rulers. On the transportation side, we are engaging the ministry, the unions and others. We shall increase our advocacy across the board. The experiment is to be completed in June after which the project would be evaluated and proper implementation could commence.
Challenges envisaged in carrying out the project?
The challenges in the implementation are to get all the stakeholders together at one time, which we have been able to overcome. We are still having constant engagement to ensure the project sails through.
When we picked mobility, you know part of the smart city project involves making transportation smarter. There is this Intelligent Transport System (ITS), which is to be incorporated into the smart city project.
ITS will provide information on mobility, not only to the people running the transport system, but there will be constant feedback to the citizens. It is one thing to stand at the bus stop, waiting for the time the bus will arrive, but ITS would provide the estimated time the bus will arrive, it will help to monitor traffic, so that is part of the Lagos implementation of ITS.
Coming back to AsTON, especially getting the citizens engaged, we believe that when everybody is committed and obeying the rules, things will work.
For other cities in Africa, Ghana for example, they used to collect taxes manually, which was complex. What they did was to find a way to leverage technology so that they can go not only from the informal sector but also to the formal sector.
In Kampala, they implemented a CCTV project just to monitor things around. We will look at what they did using the CCTV to bring sanity to traffic issues. The other part of the AsTON project is that we are all expected to discuss what was implemented from the project.
We were at Niamey, the level of technology adoption is on a low scale, we shared our experiences with them, especially in using technology to manage Drivers’ License procurement and how they can scale themselves upward. We hope they do their experiment towards that line. In terms of funding, I don’t have a specific figure from AfDB now.
Largely to succeed on the AsTON project, all hands must be on deck. So, I appeal to all Lagosians to respect the rules and regulations of the states regarding mobility and other aspects of making the city work for all.
How far with the Lagos fibre duct project?
We started the fibre project at the onset of COVID-19, which was in 2020. We are at over 2200km now. We are going to approach the mid-way soon. The project is going on, the leading telcos are already engaging the concessionaire on the project. MTN has already signed on, as well as Airtel and IPnx. It is ongoing, in fact the CCTV cameras will leverage the fibre optics because it is the fastest way to transmit network data. Also, when you look at what we are doing and the state of technology we have today, look at MainOne, which has been acquired by an International company, it tells you what we are doing in the state.
Look at Africa Data Centre (ADC1), opened last November, it is about what we are doing with fibre in the state and how we are connecting everywhere. Microsoft has also hinted about doing something about the Data Centre in the state, so also is Google.
Any support for MainOne’s InfraCo license and readiness for 5G deployment?
When you look at the issue of right of way (RoW), you look at all the telcos, if they want to traffic say from Ikeja to Apapa, all of them would apply for a RoW and run their own cable and each time this is done, they would have to dig the ground, about 10 conduits. So, what we did was to introduce a Unified Duct System. What the telcos can do is to have an agreement with the concessionaire to lease inside the duct and put their cables. That is a fair game and will at the same time reduce disruptions; they will not have to dig all the time because the project is in place already.
Now, the 5G network technology deployment would be exciting. It will enable fast movie streaming, but it goes beyond that. We have to be able to deploy technology to our schools, hospitals, markets, government institutions, 5G will make it faster and complement our cabling infrastructure because at the end of the day whether the signal is generated from air or wherever to the data centre, you will have to go through the fibre optics cable. So, with the network of conduits that we are providing, it will make the way for efficient transportation of electronic signals, which 5G is going to need and that will benefit all.