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.
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 with 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 se, 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 like. 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.
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 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 obeys the rules, things will work.
For other cities in Africa, Ghana, for example, 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.