Turning Nairobi into a regional IT hub

Posted on August 30, 2015 12:01 am

In technology circles, a smart city is the one that collects information about itself through sensors, other devices and existing systems.Then, it communicates that data using wired or wireless networks. The next step is that it analyses that data to understand what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen next. Nairobi, the most technologically advanced city in East and Central Africa region is aspiring to be the Internet of Things hub and eventually turning itself into a smart city.Nairobi has been the engine of Kenya’s economic growth.But the development has not always been “smart,” sacrificing health conditions, for instance, for greater productivity as people who live in factories in Industrial Area in outskirts of Kenyan capital will attest. With greater use of technology, Nairobi has accumulated data, delivering innovation and enhancing the lives of Nairobians. In return, there has be a multiplier effect for economic growth.Cities like Nairobi are meant to be liveable, productive and sustainable. It is expected that half of the population of Kenya will be living in cities by 2025. Many people in Kenya will either migrate or prefer working in the cities like Nairobi and Mombasa. However, the pace of development is unable to cope with the demand of the citizens.

Internet of Things solutions can help Nairobi County government to reduce traffic congestion, respond more quickly to emergencies, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and serve citizens more effectively.With IoT, sensor data can be placed throughout Nairobi city to capture various information about its health, cleanliness,congestion and safety. This data can either be captured via fixed sensors located at strategic places or the citizens themselves, who will be able to help in gathering such information.Similar plans are underway in Kampala, Uganda.The emergence of “crowd-sensing”, a term that refers to the sharing of data collected by sensing devices with the aim to measure common interests is being applied by IBM in Nairobi in the management of traffic. Sensing devices used in Nairobi include, Tablets, smartphones, sensor embedded gaming systems, music players and in-vehicle sensor devices. However, the most popular crowd-sensing device in Nairobi is the smartphone. Crowd-sensing has become a new model which allows this large number of mobile phones in the country to be used not only for exchanging information between users, but also for activities that may have a huge societal impact and Kenya is among the leader in that field in Africa.

Crowd-sensing applications are particularly attractive to organisations in Kenya because they provide them with valuable data without the need to make significant investments. In fact, it has reignited Kenyans engagement with their government authorities, opening up new perspectives for cost-effective ways of making local communities in far flung areas like Turkana and Moyale and cities like Mombasa and Kisumu more sustainable, liveable and safe.With the ability to acquire local knowledge such as the location, personal and surrounding context, noise level, traffic conditions and noise pollution through sensor-enhanced mobile devices, it has opened up many possibilities to share this knowledge within the social sphere, among practitioners, health care providers, urban planners and utility providers such as counties.Kenyans have been complaining about many things and the authorities have tried very hard to solve these problems. But Kenyans still feel that response is still too slow and thats why Nairobi City is now embarking on smart city projects.

A smart Nairobi city will have to use information and communications technology to enhance its liveability, workability and sustainability. A smart Nairobi city will require everything from traffic management to water distribution, to waste management, urban security and environmental monitoring. Its popularity is fuelled by the fact that many smart city solutions promises to alleviate real pains of people living in cities these days. IoT solutions in Nairobi city will help to solve traffic congestion problems, reduce noise and pollution and help make it safer. Using the personal smartphone as the crowd-sensing device, Nairobi has been able to develop mobile applications that empower Nairobians to identify city problems including but not limited to ailing road conditions such as potholes, blocked roads, dangerous corners, traffic lights that are faulty,accidents, hawkers blocking roads, Matatu drivers who drive recklessly, dirty hawkers, unhygienic restaurants, blocked drains, fallen trees, crime ridden areas among others where such reports can be channeled automatically to the relevant authorities.And those are three parts that will make Nairobi a smart IT city hub by collecting, communicating and analysing that will not only create new jobs, but also make Nairobi a better places to live in.

Contador Harrison