Smart cities are about people not computers - Kagame

On 30 October 2019 at 05:23

President Paul Kagame has said that advanced technology is paramount to the growth of cities highlighting that it should be measured by livelihoods transformation than the number of computers and called for public, private sectors collaboration to foster the necessary environment of trust for smart cities to flourish.

The fifth edition of Qatar Information Technology and Communication Conference and Exhibition is running from 29th to 1st November under the theme “Safe Smart Cities”.

QITCOM 2019 is showcasing innovative and various technologies by creating a knowledge-sharing platform for technology providers, policy-makers, industry experts and thought-leaders.

Kagame made the remarks today morning as he delivered a Keynote Address at the Qatar Information Technology Conference & Exhibition (QITCOM2019) hosted by the Qatar Ministry of Transport and Communication, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim BinHamad, the Emir of Qatar.

Kagame said that urbanization has been a powerful driver of wealth, culture and science throughout history given that urban life brings people of diverse backgrounds into close contact with the opportunity to learn from each other.

He explained that cities have also generated significantly higher levels of economic productivity as well as creativity adding that urbanization creates the conditions for more complex economies, powered by innovation and services.

“In short, urbanization is a key step on any society’s pathway to prosperity,” said Kagame.

He underscored that Africa still has some of the world’s lowest rates of urbanization which is among the factors that have kept Africa from advancing as quickly as it should have due to inherent advantages

“However, the human geography of Africa is in a state of rapid change. The rate of growth of Africa’s cities is on average the highest in the world. For example, in Rwanda, our urbanization rate is around 6 percent a year, compared to the global average of around 2 percent,” said Kagame.

“In 1962, Rwanda’s capital Kigali had only around 6,000 residents. Today, Kigali is home to nearly 1.5 million people. Still, less than 20 percent of Rwanda’s population lives in urban areas. Our target is to raise that to 35 percent, in the coming years,” he added.

The President said that such a wave of urbanization is also occurring elsewhere in Africa and represents a historic window of opportunity for investment, growth and human development.

He, therefore, stressed the need for effective planning and do things right.

“We cannot afford to leave urbanization to chance or go back and fix mistakes later after costs and damage have already been incurred. This is where technology has a huge role to play,” said Kagame.

He emphasized that Africa is fortunate to be undergoing its urban revolution at this particular time when smart cities technologies are evolving and maturing and shared Rwanda’s strides.

“In Kigali, wi-fi has been made available on public transportation, whereby the way, you pay for your ticket using a tap-and-go card, not cash. Essential public services, such as identity documents, land titles and business registration are accessed through our e-government platform, known as Irembo,” he said.

“Rwandans are also using mobile money applications to pay for water and electricity, as well as their taxes. Digital payment not only makes those services more accessible to consumers, it also reduces the vectors for corruption,” added Kagame.

Kagame commended the Emir of Qatar for his foresight in establishing the annual Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani International Anti-corruption Excellence Award.

Rwanda has been selected as the host for this year’s award ceremony in Kigali on December 9th.

Kagame said these competitive prizes recognize exemplary efforts to build corruption-free societies around the world.

The President further stated: “ As our cities grow, we will remain open to collaborating with partners, such as those represented at this exhibition. We wish to work together to deploy relevant technologies, to manage the consequences of urban expansion and make sure that our citizens and visitors get the most out of our cities.”

He stressed two important considerations to keep in mind, at all times as countries strive to build smart cities.

“First, smart cities are about people not computers. The mission is not to invest in technology for its own sake, but to do so strategically, to make life measurably better for the people who live in our cities,” noted Kagame.

Secondly, the President said that the foundation of smart cities is trust whereby much of urban technology depends on the data generated by residents.

“If we want our citizens and customers to remain open to the benefits of high-tech cities, we need to be responsible with their data at every stage, from collection to storage and usage,” he said.

“The public and private sectors must work closely together to foster the necessary environment of trust for smart cities to flourish,” added Kagame.

He emphasized that the current primary task is to accelerate the implementation of development vision, ‘in order to rapidly achieve the good results witnessed in this country, among other positive examples around the world’.

Kagame called for collaboration to apply the power of technology to enhance the quality of cities and the future of the people who live in them.

Rwandan companies participating in Smart City Expo in Doha include AC Group, Ampersand, BSC, Irembo, Pascal Technology, QT Software, and a youth-led recycling start-up, Wastezon.

Kagame called for collaboration to apply the power of technology to enhance the quality of cities and the future of the people who live in them.