Date Published: July 26, 2017, 9:47 p.m.
bout UCLG: United Cities and Local Governments is the main global network of cities and local, metropolitan and regional governments. Its mission is to represent their interest on the world stage and promote the goals of democratic, local self-government through cooperation between local and regional governments and with the wider international community. It has 7 regional sections, including UCLG Africa.
African cities have been integrating SMART technologies in their management at different scales, including:
Municipal finance in the African is still a challenging topic as in several countries decentralization is still incomplete. This is particularly true in francophone countries where the Ministries of Finance usually have the responsibility to collect taxes and redistribute them to local governments. Besides a lack of autonomy, African cities often lack technical (institutional and human resources) and financial capacities to lead reforms to improve municipal finance management. For instance, several secondary African cities still lack electricity which is the necessary basis for any ICT infrastructure, and even in those cities with electricity, bandwidth is not sufficient to support SMART projects based on big data for example. Which means that, if local governments want to improve tax collection with ICT, they need to make an arrangement with the Ministry of Finances, which may represent at the same time an opportunity to strengthen their capacity and a challenge in additional bureaucracy. The city of Cotonou, Benin has implemented such arrangements. Although SMART projects are mostly led at national government level, it is important to empower local governments and avoid having all decisions taken at national level thus disempowering local administration.
Besides all the positive impact SMART technologies and the increased access to information that comes with it can have in municipal administration, they must be used wisely and cities must be prepared:
In 2013, UCLG Africa started a cooperation with Microsoft, with the goal to contribute to the development of African cities and to strengthen the governance and municipal management with the usage of ICT. The partnership projected to implement the CityNext initiative in pilot African cities to improve citizen engagement in local management and to better answer citizens’ expectations. CityNext combines Cloud and Smartphone technologies with big data and social media analytics, and offer to municipalities an ecosystem of solutions to connect and fluidize data circulation between city services. A pilot-project was implemented in Kigali, Rwanda, where an application was created to allow municipal employees and citizens to report incidents and problems in services and infrastructures by taking pictures geotagged in a digitized map. This represents a big advantage to municipalities who can better know the state of municipal assets, and plan quicker interventions and repairs, which will in turn, reduce management costs while improving services’ quality. However, African cities still face important obstacles to implement this type of project, as they do not always have the capacities to answer to all incidents reported, which can generate frustrations for the citizen or the municipal employee. As a consequence, it is important to demystify the usage of technologies as a miracle solution for urban management. If ICT can help governments to better know the dynamics of their territory and encourage citizen participation, they are not enough per se, and municipalities must make sure to have financial and technical means before initiating any SMART project.