Tshwane set sights on smart city tag by 2055

By the year 2055 Tshwane should be a city where the use of smart technology will be at the centre of service delivery as the city boasts many research and innovation institutions.

The Innovation Hub, the CSIR and the three main universities in the city should be used to harness fresh innovations to advance service delivery in the city.

These were the sentiments expressed by residents, academics and municipal officials this week as they exchanged ideas on how to make Tshwane a "smart city" during one session of the eight-week discussions on the Tshwane2055 vision.

Most of those who attended the discussion were of the view that some services offered by the city to its residents should be simplified by using smart technology.

This included the issuing of electricity bills through e-mails and SMSes, and the ability to track enquiries or complaints online.

One resident said that even though there were a lot of things the municipality was doing to improve service delivery, lack of communication was the major cause of unrest.

"The municipality must be able to distribute SMSes to residents to inform them of things they are doing so that they always remain in the loop.

"People must also be able to do their business online instead of calling and having to hold on the phone for a long time," said the resident.

Among other services that need to be improved, residents said, were payment of traffic fines and the tracking of water leaks and faulty traffic lights. This, however, would also challenge the municipality to ensure that it had the capacity to respond to alerts that may be generated electronically.

However, Lungile Mginqi, a senior executive at Accenture, a company involved in a project to roll out smart meters in San Francisco in the US, gave examples of some of the disadvantages of electronic alerts.

"We had a situation where smart meters were installed and they were able to detect when there were problems with the metering.

"The challenge was that when the alerts came in, there were not enough resources or personnel to respond immediately to the alerts.

"It basically means that if you implement such an idea you must also change how you operate to improve your turnaround time," said Mginqi.

Municipalities and government department were, however, slammed for proving to be efficient with communicating messages meant to recover money, but not equally efficient in other aspects of communication.

"It seems to be a trend that when it comes to reminding a resident that their account is overdue, the communication is prompt and on time.

"However, the communication is not quite as efficient when it comes to resolving issues that affect residents such as when one has to be repaid a deposit.

"In this case one must go and stand in a queue for many hours just to collect the return of deposits," said another city resident.

The discussions continued at the Tshwane University of Technology's Soshanguve campus yesterday.

Although there was a thumbs-up for the use of computers and smartphones to access municipal services and to interact with the municipality, some who attended the session warned that there were still huge numbers of people who were illiterate and had no access to such technology.

"Even though 2055 might still be far, we need to start addressing those issues now because preparation for 2055 starts today," said a resident.

(Pretoria News)

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