On behalf of the Ministry of Communications and the Local Organizing Committee of the Smart Cities Summit Nigeria, it gives me great pleasure to welcome you to this Press Briefing for the ‘Smart Cities Nigeria Summit’ initially scheduled to hold from the 27th – 28th of June, 2017 but now postponed to the 8th -9th of August, 2017 at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja. This postponement was to give all participating Organizations, States and Foreign Embassies ample time to plan and prepare for the summit.
Having said that, it is a common knowledge that more than fifty four percent of the world’s population live in urban cities. Continued urbanization will add more people to the urban population and invariably more challenges on government to make our cities more efficient, safer and conducive for our citizens.
Our world is becoming instrumented, interconnected and intelligent. The systems and technologies that underpin so much of how the world works are smarter. We live in a time of unprecedented advances in every sector of human endeavour. In the ICT industry of developed economies alone, we are seeing the coming of age of a whole new generation of intelligent systems and technologies: more powerful and accessible than ever before.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of our country. We are wrestling with both an infrastructure gap, after years of underinvestment, and an innovation gap from poor innovation performance in the business sector over the years. Improving both is essential to improve our fundamental economic prospects. By linking infrastructure and innovation, we increase the potential to help close both our infrastructure gap and our innovation gap.
Our towns and cities are growing rapidly. This demands innovative approaches. Every State in Nigeria however has its own priorities and challenges. While some cities priority may be the modernizing and improving of their transportation portals, others could be bridging communication gaps by making data available to its citizens through various hot spots across the city.
The Nigerian Smart City Initiative is not a silver bullet or a magic wand from government designed to make all cities and government operation ‘smart’ with one shot. Rather it’s a conscious effort by government, working with the private sector and all other stakeholders to forge a public private partnership to develop scalable, replicable, interoperable and measurable solutions that will make our cities and citizens smarter. It starts by doing simple things, the smart way. One step at a time. That is why we are willing to work and partner with everybody in the IT space towards this project.
IT companies will have the chance to team up with cities and infrastructure companies to help advance smart city/smart infrastructure technologies and systems in Nigeria. It is an opportunity to demonstrate and scale up Nigeria IT innovations and to show how IT can be linked with physical infrastructure to deliver business and public benefits.
In driving the Nigerian Smart Cities Initiative further and as part of the objectives of the Ministry of Communications in ensuring a digital and knowledge based economy for the country, the Ministry, her Parastatals, and other Partners in collaboration with Afritex Initiative is pleased to invite you to the Smart Cities Summit Nigeria scheduled for the 8th-9th August, 2017 at the Congress Hall, Transcorp Hilton Abuja, from 9am daily. The theme of the summit is ‘Leveraging on Technology Solutions To Improve Efficiency of Cities’
The two day multi-stakeholders international summit will among others take a critical look at the level of preparedness, unique challenges, and emerging solutions necessary for a sustainable smart city initiative for the country.
Additionally, the summit will offer huge business opportunities for providers of smart city technologies to exhibit and pitch their solutions and products to Federal, State and Local Government top officials, and private real estate developers who are all expected to attend the summit.
Letters of invite have been extended to Foreign Governments, States and Local Governments, foreign embassies, bilateral organizations and the private sector who are all expected to share their experiences and suggestions towards the Nigerian Smart City Initiative.
You will recall that as recent as last month, I represented His Excellency, the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, [GCON] at the Transform Africa Summit in Rwanda, where I led a delegation of Nigerian ICT stakeholders to network and brainstorm with other African Heads of Foreign Delegations on issues affecting the making of Africa ‘Smarter’.
Let me note at this point that the Ministers of several West African Countries have indicated interest to attend the summit including Ministers of ICT for Rwanda, Kenya and South Africa to share their personal experience after hosting similar events in their countries. The ‘Smart Cities Summit Nigeria’ initiative is not intended to be a one-off summit. More elaborate technical stakeholder’s engagements will continue to take place with different sectors in the ICT ecosystem well after the summit. We will also continue to work with our partners to design and proffer practical steps and solutions that will assist the Federal Government in formulating a unified and national robust Policy that will have a corresponding implementable framework towards the smart cities Nigeria initiative.
That is why we have taken care in constituting members of the Local Organizing Committing of the Smart Cities Summit Nigeria to reflect the different sectors of smart city development whilst also leveraging on their areas of core competence.
Going forward therefore, the Ministry in collaboration with her Partners and Afritex Initiative, intends to make this summit a yearly event designed to provide a common platform to review progress done, have a better understanding of emerging challenges, diagnose and articulate more responsive and pragmatic solutions, whilst evolving new strategies on our smart cities initiative that will take us to the promised land.
It is pertinent to note again that smart cities are not built by one organization or a sector of government but by a collective effort of all stakeholders.
The global practice usually is to constitute a Consortium made up of critical stakeholders in the smart city space who would come together in a public private partnership model to help drive and implement the project. The Ministry will look into this approach and several other initiatives to determine the best method that is not only effective but also sustainable in line with global trend.
We know that going smart would not be easy. In fact, it is a huge challenge giving the lack of critical infrastructure in the country. Constant power for instance is a major challenge for any smart city initiative for the country. Cheap, clean and dependable power supply is the bedrock of any smart city project. So also, is effective broadband penetration and affordable data service. The Nigerian ICT Road Map 2016-2019, the National Strategic Plan 2016-2024, the broad band policy and the new Power Sector Reforms of this administration, are some of the ways government intends to address these challenges.
There is never a time to be fully ready for a smart city project. It is a process in the wheel of city urbanization and renewal. Nigeria is ready and eager to embark on that process. This does not mean building only new smart cities, it also means making our existing cities and villages more efficient and more effective using technology available at our disposal. Again, doing simple things the smart way, one step at a time!
In order to encourage healthy competition among Cities and States, the Ministry in collaboration with its Partners, will soon launch ‘The Smart City Challenge’. The idea is to encourage Local Governments, Cities, States Governments, and the built industry to take revolutionary steps to go to the level of digital technology. Details of the competition and the prize money will be worked out with our Partners and made available to the press.
In closing, we must always remember that we must put the interest of our nation first in all things that we do, and only the best of things that we do. Nigeria is on a journey of greatness, and together we shall arrive at the destination of our dream.
Thank you for coming. God bless you all, and may God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria.