A few weeks ago, Lagos State and the city of Dubai, agreed to collaborate on a deal to transform the largest city in Africa into a smart city.
MOUs were drafted and signed amidst promises of a transformation that will generate thousands of new jobs and deliver the world’s first carbon neutral city.
This will be no mean feat. Lagos; a throbbing, seething mass of life and limb has managed to thrive amidst decrepit infrastructure and poor government services. And while Abuja is the nation’s official capital, Lagos has stoutly maintained its status as the economic and cultural powerhouse of the country. It is a magnificently complex entity whose citizens have had to fend for themselves for decades; making their own rules and circumventing state agency attempts to reign in independent activity. A smart Lagos promises state government funded waste and energy management, utility provision, intelligently designed transportation systems and through-ways which facilitate trade, market access and urban mobility, and a government that is hip to innovative technology platforms built to make the arduous process of governance easier and more effective. A smart Lagos would bring an end to the renegade way of life that has been the city’s greatest economic catalyst and its greatest curse. However, a smart Lagos would not only require a physical and cultural overhaul, but a revolution in the way the Lagos state government acquires and uses data.
Smart energy management will require baseline data on how often power outages occur, the duration and cause of outages, and a system that generates follow-up data which can be used to track and analyze energy use patterns and track infrastructure performance. Smart healthcare will involve the accumulation of symptom, treatment and outcome data, which can be used to generate private electronic health records accessible by healthcare practitioners across all government healthcare facilities. This sort of data can also be used to monitor patient progress, and track the incidence of disease and epidemics, fertility rates, and mortality – particularly maternal and child mortality rates. This data will also feed directly into tracking of population growth patterns, labor availability and productivity, government welfare dependency, rural-urban migration and urbanization.
Citizens will have to learn to trust the government again, and rely on its agents for the free and fair provision of the tools they need to survive and make a living. It will become necessary to create effective channels through which the government can determine the needs of its citizens, and track the progress, performance and impact of newly implemented programs and services. It will also become important to create feedback mechanisms through which citizens themselves are able to interact with the government and effectively communicate their needs and grievances.
The data needs are endless, and we at BDA are excited not only by prospect of participation in the data revolution; a necessary component of this upgraded Lagos, but we are even more excited by the welfare implications of this data revolution for the citizens of Lagos and Nigeria as a whole; because where Lagos State leads, other states eventually follow. The challenge is great, but Lagos has stood stalwart against the many massive obstacles to its growth and development, and hopes are high for what we anticipate will be a better, smarter, data-driven Lagos.