The City of Cape Town plans to spend R185m in the current financial year on its broadband initiative.
The City and province has additional funding to support digital initiatives from the Western Cape Government of R11.8m for broadband infrastructure and R23.7m for its Digital Inclusion Project. Under this project, 180 new Wi-Fi access points were introduced in 2014/15 and a further 120 points will follow by year-end.
“Our network is now robust and extensive enough to be leveraged by the private sector for inclusive growth and economic development,” says Andre Stelzner, CIO of the City of Cape Town, to members of Accelerate Cape Town (ACT), at a recent forum on “Digital Cape Town: Creating a Smart City.”
Ryan Ravens, CEO of ACT, comments, “Cape Town, with its population of 3.7m, is growing at 2,6% per annum. As such, we are the city with the highest urbanisation rate in SA. In order to create a stable and conducive business environment, we need to find creative ways of accelerating inclusive growth and to work more carefully with our resources. The case for business to become involved is compelling and, from a socio-economic perspective, we also know that a 10% increase in broadband penetration can generate 1,3% growth in GDP.
“By putting the broadband infrastructure in place, the City has optimised the environment for private sector involvement by providing the backbone infrastructure. And by extending this invitation to business to become involved in the provision of related products and services to citizens, we are presented with an excellent opportunity to help transform Cape Town into a smart city.”
To facilitate this process, Ravens and his team are also addressing key inhibitors of which the skills shortage is considered the greatest.
“The private sector remains constrained by a dearth of relevant skills in general and, in the case of Digital Cape Town, of software engineers, data scientists, and Jave and .Net developers in particular,” Ravens says. “We are engaging with the region’s universities and educational institutions to raise awareness, ensure collaboration with the private sector, and address this issue at foundational level.”
Further to a free WiFi service, the organisation’s members identified open data, smart systems for the settlement of bills, fault logging, etc, and IT infrastructure access for educational institutions, as the smart city initiatives to be prioritised. About 30,000 residents currently access the City’s WiFi network and a tender for the provision of WiFi on MyCiti buses, has recently closed. According to Stelzner, this is a highly specialised area.
“The construction of dedicated wireless data transmission infrastructure along bus routes is very expensive and can at best be justified along very high occupancy routes,” he says. “The alternative is dependent on good LTE mobile data services from mobile operators. It is this mobile data service that will then be used for transmission between a moving bus and a terrestrial base station.”
A collaborative approach will be central to unlocking the full potential of the City’s fibre network, Ravens says.
“This was our first forum in a series aimed at facilitating engagement between business and the City as we work to transform Cape Town into the progressive, smart and inclusive city it has every potential to be,” he says. “Our next session will be smaller and focused on generating ideas on how the private sector can help.”