Cities are facing incredible challenges, particularly as the fluctuating economy drives people to migrate into urban areas, in search of jobs and income.
Urban populations are growing year on year, bringing with it problems such as waste management, power and water delivery and dealing with increased road traffic.
The demands of the average citizen have increased too, and cities, municipalities and the government need to be mindful of how to creatively deliver services to citizens as quickly and effectively as possible, while dealing with the added pressures of population growth.
In order to achieve this, the private sector is instrumental in aiding government to shape much needed ‘smart cities’.
More and more cities are looking to smart technology to resolve many of these new – and even old – challenges.
As connectivity becomes more available and of a higher speed and quality than ever before, space has opened up for emerging technologies like the Internet of Things (IoT), smart devices and virtual services to make a real and visible difference.
Yet, many governments are finding it difficult, if not altogether impossible, to achieve their smart goals without the help of the private sector. Enter the need for Public and Private Partnerships (PPPs).
By definition, a smart city is one which uses information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality, performance and interactivity of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption and to improve contact between citizens and government.
Smart cities need solid, reliable and fast connectivity in order to function.
In South Africa, the concept of solid infrastructure for connectivity is a relatively new phenomenon and, if we want a smart city to function correctly, we need a scenario where 90% of the population has access to high speed connectivity.
Developing and building a smart city, or municipality, requires strategic thinking and intelligent implementation of these strategies in order to succeed.
Governments typically excel in the planning and strategy component, however, they can only go so far to achieve a smart city from an execution perspective.
This is largely due to a lack of skills, knowledge and resources to deliver the networks and technology platforms required to carry out their smart city strategy.
The creation of a PPP requires building a team of relevant and experienced corporates and government specialists, who all put the requirements of the citizen at the centre of the plan.
It is important that such agreements serve all parties – the corporates, the governments and, above all, the citizens of the city or municipality.
Once the requirements have been outlined, it is imperative that tasks and actions are defined, and that there are also the necessary policies and best practices put in place to avoid failure, miscommunication and mishaps.
The framework is typically drawn up by the government, in conjunction with third party experts who are able to lend their knowledge to identify the best solutions to the problems.
PPPs are typically long-term, with extended engagement cycles that can often span years.
The planning and building of a smart city is no easy feat and careful consideration is required to ensure that it is delivered efficiently, cost effectively and successfully.
PPPs carry the advantage of ensuring that the best people and technologies are available in order to deliver on government commitments on time.
It is imperative that the private sector get involved from the beginning, helping governments lay the best foundation upon which to build their smart cities.
A smart city is simply not possible without the proper frameworks and foundations in place, as well as the foresight to predict what platforms and services will be required in future, based on trends and growth prediction.
PPPs are the key to ensuring that smart cities are no longer the future bur rather tomorrow’s reality being delivered today.
This article was published in partnership with In2IT.