The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami, has said his ministry will work with the Federal Capital Territory Administration and some state governments to set up ‘smart cities’ in major cities.
Speaking with journalists at the end of this year’s Gulf Information Technology Exhibition (GITEX), Mr Pantami said his visit to the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) and discussions with top executives there had provided Nigeria with insights and possible partnerships for the proposed project.
The DSOA is considered to be the only technology park in the region that provides working integrated community.
Mr Pantami said establishing such smart cities will bring immense benefits to Nigerian economy especially in the country’s drive to harness economic opportunities offered by smart technologies.
The minister said he will reopen conversions with the FCT minister on the establishment of ‘Smart Abuja’ and some “progressive governors” can buy into the idea.
For Abuja, Mr Pantami proposed identification “a small area where we can come up with a very beautiful city within Abuja that can automatically be automated and digitalised”.
He said he will encourage governors who are “digitally inclined” to consider establishing smart cities in their states.
“Our visit to Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) is to see the process they have followed to digitalise and transform the entire city which is highly commendable.
“Whenever you have an idea that is transformative, it is better to approach and learn from someone who has already achieved it to minimize your mistakes and errors.”
Mr Pantami said private developers are already experimenting with the concept by coming up with smart estate, which he described as encouraging.
He however said the country should go beyond smart estates by piloting full-fledged smart cities and towns
The minister listed a number of benefits of having smart cities.
“Firstly, when it comes to security, with a smart city even before you reach the entrance, that has been recorded automatically. Security (personnel) sees you before you see him.
“Secondly, it makes things easier. Many of the things that we do physically we don’t have to do it–from one place you can control your compound.
“Thirdly, it brings about accuracy and precision as well as peace of mind in the way humans conduct their activities or transact business.”
Mr Pantami said the project would open doors for job for experts on artificial intelligence and other smart technologies. The government, he said, will have increased revenue earnings in the process.
Challenge for developers
The minister said the Nigerian government is looking for solutions to the country’s peculiar technology needs.
He said adequate provision is being made to encourage development of the Nigerian IT ecosystem, while developers are being challenged to provide solution-driven innovations.
Mr Pantami said the idea behind establishing the National Centre for Artificial Intelligence and Robotics was to “identify and promote promising Nigerian startups with creative solutions related to emerging technologies”.
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