- Published: 16 October 2023
In Nigeria’s heart lies Anambra, a state with potential in agriculture, tourism, trade, and commerce. Anambra is like a vibrant individual stuck in the constraints of uncertainty, yearning to unleash its full brilliance upon the world. Thankfully, the governor dreams of transforming the city into a smart city, and the possibilities are boundless. But can this dream become a reality? It has been two years since Governor Chukwuma Soludo embarked on a journey fuelled by grand campaign promises, envisioning Anambra as the Southeast’s digital excellence hub and a shining ‘African Dubai-Taiwan.’
The road to transforming Anambra into a smart city is no small feat, it demands both visionary foresight and practicality. As we ponder on whether the governor’s remaining two—term tenure is enough to realise the dream of an ‘African Dubai-Taiwan’, we must understand that monumental achievements around the world often started as audacious dreams. Consider Singapore, a nation that once existed as a dream of Lee Kuan Yew. Like Singapore’s transformation, turning Anambra into a smart city is achievable but can take time.
For context, a smart city is a city that uses advanced digital technology and data-driven solutions to improve the quality of life for its residents, by enhancing performance, optimising resource consumption and promoting sustainability across various urban services and functions. Consider the e-banking system as a prime example. Financial transactions are seamlessly processed in seconds without the need for physical cash. This not only enhances efficiency but also reduces the potential for issues like money laundering or diversion that can occur with traditional manual processes.
In essence, a smart city embodies a commitment driven by visionary leadership to leverage modern and advanced technology to harmonise urban life, resulting in greater efficiency, sustainability, and a citizen-centric environment, ultimately making life easier for local communities.
I was genuinely surprised to learn that seventy-two (72) real estate developers and contractors submitted bids for the Anambra Smart City Project. While the concept of developing residential areas is indeed a commendable step to address urban growth, it’s crucial to understand that this initiative stands distinctly apart from the broader goal of developing a smart city. Anambra, like other states in Nigeria, still battles with basic infrastructure like stable electricity, high wave network connection and poor management of resources.
Smart cities involve the digitisation of already existing state infrastructure and the comprehensive integration of cutting-edge technologies into the day-to-day lives of the people of Anambra. We look at countries that have made significant strides in artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, education, transportation, and energy infrastructure, and we cannot help but ask, “Why can’t Nigeria do this?” or “Can Anambra achieve something similar?” After all, Anambra is as small in population size; we can work to digitise at a similar scale too.
A practical first step would be to study the limitations of our e-Governance system. The literacy gap is one significant factor hindering Anambra from becoming as technologically advanced as countries like Israel. As of 2021, Israel boasted a relatively high literacy rate, supported by a well-developed education system that emphasises ICT literacy, sensitisation, and a comprehensive education for its citizens.
In many countries that have embraced smart city initiatives, the initial focus has been on ICT education and widespread awareness. For instance, in the early 90s, the Estonian government implemented an IT policy through a program known as Tiigrihüpe pronounced in English as “Tiger Leap”, whose primary objective was to bridge the digital divide among citizens, enhance ICT adoption in education by equipping schools with computers, establishing internet connectivity across the country, and integrating technology as a fundamental tool for everyone. By 2001, Estonia had already met this goal.
Beyond education, electricity and internet accessibility are also crucial factors to consider. A smart city relies heavily on internet connectivity. The Anambra ICT Agency, in collaboration with the state government, must ensure that smart city initiatives are extended beyond Awka and encompass even the most remote parts of Anambra to ensure inclusivity at all levels.
In transforming complex spaces like markets, the creation of a user-friendly and secure e-commerce platform specifically tailored to the needs of main market traders would be essential. Vendor registration and participation and inventory management systems would be implemented to track products efficiently. To ensure the success of this transformation, effective delivery and logistics mechanisms should be established, along with dedicated customer support services.
Realistically, transforming Anambra into a smart city in 8 years might not be achievable, as there are many pressing infrastructure issues that must be addressed. For instance, in Abatete, there is no connected drainage system, which may extend to the entire Idemili North local government area. Drainage systems are a fundamental component of urban infrastructure, essential for managing stormwater, preventing flooding, detecting disease hotspots, controlling pollution, and maintaining a healthy environment for residents. The same goes for waste management and the need for a comprehensive database system to manage these structures effectively. But the dream is undoubtedly ambitious and applaudable.
Most importantly, the responsibility for good governance cannot be solely entrusted to one individual. While visionary leadership is crucial, it’s equally fundamental for Anambrans to share a connected vision for the state’s future.
What do we collectively envision for Anambra in the next twenty to fifty years? How can we build upon the foundation that the government is laying today to realise the dream of a smart city and a prosperous future? This collaborative approach ensures that any incoming government’s goal, manifestos and priorities resonate and perfectly align with the needs of the people. All these considerations are necessary for the successful realization of a smart city and greater and brighter Anambra, long after the current administration is gone.
Autor(en)/Author(s): Chisom Mefor
Quelle/Source: Bella Naija, 09.10.2023