its failure offers lessons for other African countries creating smart cities

its failure offers lessons for other African countries creating smart cities

Smart urbanism is to make use of digital applied sciences to resolve city issues. Throughout the continent, digital applied sciences and sensible initiatives have been utilized in myriad methods, together with crime management, city planning and visitors administration.

It did not at all times work, nevertheless. Typically these initiatives failed as a result of the applied sciences weren’t effectively built-in into the native context. Or insurance policies have failed to concentrate to social realities and technical necessities.

Ghana presents an instance. The nation spear a wise initiative in 2017: a digital system to offer an deal with to every city property. It’s a cellphone utility designed to find options anyplace in Ghana. The deal with is offered in alphanumeric type (eg EY-0329-2478) and shows particulars corresponding to area and metropolitan, municipal and district authority. It additionally shows the road identify of the function (a home or a church, for instance) and shows its coordinates.

People can generate their very own deal with and typically officers go to a property, generate the digital deal with for that property, and supply occupants with a tag, or bodily tag, to affix to the property.

The system was designed to offer digital addresses for properties, which might then be used for service supply, service entry, and to facilitate enterprise transactions. It was additionally deliberate to overcome the challenges of using the old address system. These have been numbers (for sections of streets) and letters (for streets). It had no coordinate system and was by no means digitized.

Cities want addressing methods that allow the availability of location-based providers.

We carried out a study to know whether or not residents have been utilizing the brand new “sensible” system. We wished to discover the usefulness of digital addresses for residents of their each day routines.

We discovered that there was certainly a niche between design and actuality. Adoption was low and other people have been annoyed with the system.

This happens when design options don’t take context-specific elements into consideration. This will likely embrace residents’ digital literacy and disparities in web entry. A mix of those elements typically frustrates digitization applications and initiatives in African cities.

Our findings present that digitization initiatives in Ghana have to take this into consideration if they’re to succeed. They have to additionally embrace the dedication of the individuals who will use the providers to know their expectations.

A digital addressing system

The federal government launched the digital property deal with system in hopes of bettering navigation built-up spaces via basic landmarks like shops, sewers, and roads.

Higher navigation aimed to enhance entry to important providers and waste administration. The system was meant to make it simpler to determine properties regardless of the casual, unplanned, and unmapped nature of a lot of the city atmosphere.

There have been various issues within the implementation of the properties numeric deal with system.

First, choices have been made by the vice-president’s workplace and carried out on the degree of native authorities items. There was little enter from native folks, which resulted in poor understanding by residents and apathy in the direction of the initiative.

Second, there have been points in the way in which it was deployed. First, Ghana Post offered deal with labels for a price to residents. The following part noticed a workforce from the vice chairman’s workplace carry out the marking without charge to residents. Early labels solely had the numeric deal with with no options like avenue identify and home quantity. They now have full performance.

The consequence is the show of various numerical addresses for the homes of the residents. That is vital as a result of the tag offered to residents is now a requirement for varied public service businesses such because the passport workplace, telecommunications corporations and the National identification authority.

What we discovered

Now we have managed our study in three suburban communities of Accra, the capital of Ghana. We examined the elements influencing using the system. We selected family representatives based mostly on their curiosity in taking part within the examine, and we had 999 respondents in whole.

We discovered that particular person and contextual elements formed using the system in Accra.

First, there was a distinction between constructing house owners and tenants. About 68% of residents who owned properties have been doubtless to make use of the digital property addressing system, and solely 32% of renters.

Second, socioeconomic attributes corresponding to revenue, web information price, and degree of schooling have been additionally key determinants. Low-educated, low-income residents have been the least doubtless to make use of the system. Inside this group, we discovered that a lot of it was about perceptions of the advantages and challenges of utilizing digital expertise.

The problem of belief got here up among the many folks we interviewed. Perceptions concerning the inefficiencies of presidency initiatives and the irregularities of previous digital initiatives meant that individuals didn’t belief the brand new system.

The notion was that the system had been put in place as a part of a political agenda fairly than to fulfill a growth want. It was seen as imposed by the presidency with out dedication, transparency and accountability. There was no precise possession from the customers’ perspective.

Total, we discovered that round 62% of residents and even authorities businesses don’t use it of their day-to-day operations.


Our outcomes recommend that coverage makers should be sensible of their sensible city planning agenda. We name consideration to the fundamentals:

  • inexpensive and accessible web infrastructure

  • multi-stakeholder engagement

  • transparency and effectivity within the design and implementation of city digital initiatives.

Solely by setting the precise priorities and adapting to contextual realities that the potential of digitization initiatives for sustainable and equitable city growth might be realized.

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