Smart tech, infrastructure lacking in villages, townships
Smart cities have been around for years and many cities in South Africa are striving to become smart, or have adopted smart city solutions to a certain extent.
However, villages and townships, which tend to be some of our most underserved communities, are left out of this technology trend. This is despite the fact that building adequate technology infrastructure and adding smart solutions could enhance the livelihoods of the citizens in these communities.
According to Seshan Krishnamurti, an independent consultant working on a smart village initiative, community buy-in can be a challenge to implementing smart technologies in rural communities or townships.
Immediate pressures such as providing running water and electricity supersede the need for smart solutions and technology infrastructure. Another challenge, he says, is creating the correct technology platform and services suitable for a given community.
"While there will be common facets across all communities, variations will exist between communities which will need to be understood. Finally, funding for setting up the right platform and training is often a challenge. For this kind of work, there is not yet a proven blueprint," notes Krishnamurti.
He says key areas to roll out smart initiatives could be health and education, with many other opportunities across different industry sectors, such as transportation, financial services, manufacturing and communication, to name a few.
In addition to this, he comments: "The first impact area is the thinking and learning process required for the fourth industrial revolution. The second impact area relates to generating work and income even in the short-term, allowing money to circulate in the community where possible. From a technology perspective, the main focus areas would have to be taken community by community to avoid stereotyping."
When deploying smart solutions, we need to know how success will be measured, Krishnamurti points out, explaining that the economic impact is generally measured by employability and the growth of enterprises in the community.
He says sustainable mechanisms will be required for knowledge to be transferred and retained within the communities. "This means not just more technology-equipped schools, but retention of experience in the community. There is a great flow of human capital towards the major cities; it is important to create avenues for communities to flourish without having to gravitate towards a major city."
To hear more about the smart village initiative Krishnamurti is planning, join the Public Sector ICT Forum's "Smart Cities, Township and Villages: Connecting the Future" event on 14 May at the Fusion Boutique Hotel in Polokwane.