The National Information Technology Development Agency, NITDA has launched a multi-year National Smart Cities Initiative designed to kick-start the drive towards using smart, scalable solutions replicable nationwide to address a host of challenges including transportation, disaster response, energy, healthcare, education and the environment.
The collaboration will involve eight cities nationwide in the first phase, including Abuja, Lagos and one city selected from each of the six geopolitical zones. Representing the states and FCT at the meeting were the Sokoto state commissioner for ICT, Nazir S. Zarummai, Sokoto state director of ICT, Nasir Daniya, Senior Special Assistant (ICT) to the governor of Rivers State, Willian Idoniboye, Special Adviser (ICT) to the governor of Oyo state, Oluwafunminiyi
Ajao and the Special Assistant (ICT) to the governor of Kaduna state, Engr. Idris Muhammed. Representing the Federal Capital Transport Authority were the director, BRT, Engr. Wilson Unogwu, Deputy Director, TS, Engr. Etim Abak and Mr. Dele Yero, director, DRTS.
Already, NITDA and the Federal Capital Transport Authority Secretariat are collaborating to design an integrated transportation system under the auspices of both the National Smart Cities Initiative and the Global City Teams Challenge (GCTC) program, a similar smart city initiative backed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), an agency of the US department of Commerce.
Speaking at the stakeholder consultative meeting held at the NITDA conference room, the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Communications, Arch. Sunday Echono who was represented by the Director, e-Government at the Ministry of Communications, Mr. Tope Fashedemi, noted the existence of research confirming a positive correlation between e-government development and rapid national GDP growth.
Fashedemi added that, the national e-government Master Plan which is awaiting rectification of the Federal Executive Council (FEC), is a demonstration of Nigeria’s commitment to the diversification of the national economy through e-government strategies and programs.
He stated that, “leveraging on the importance of e-government would boost the economy because there is a huge relationship between a country GDP and e-government adding that the creation of Smart City alone would ensure transparency and accountability in revenue generation”.
He urged the selected pilot state government to support the initiative of the Federal Government and come up with peculiar challenges affecting their states and using Smart city initiative to solve such challenges.
“State governments must be carried along in e-government. This is a national agenda which every state must cue into and it gladdens our hearts that NITDA is driving the e-government initiative”, he added.
Welcoming the selected ICT commissioners to the meeting, the Acting Director General of NITDA, Dr. Vincent Olatunji who was represented by Director of Infrastructure and Technical Support Services, Dr. Collins Agu said the meeting cannot come at better time than now that the nation needs to shift attention from mono economy runs only on crude oil.
The Ag. DG added that, “It is pertinent on us now to diversify our economy and only through ICT we can achieve a lot. There are many benefits of running a smart city which is only achievable through proper e-government”.
The Project team leader and Head, e-Government Unit in the Agency, Mr. Bernard Ewah urged the selected states to come up with smart projects ideas that are of importance to them as the Agency has no predetermined smart project for any Ewah stated that the Agency would rely on existing relationship with Global City Team Challenge, (GCTC) to achieve the objective of the smart city projects.
“Because of our budgetary constraint, we decided to kick start this initiative with a pilot scheme among the selected states. Whatever assistance we get from GCTC and other international donors would be channeled toward achieving the Smart city projects”, he added.
In his reaction, the honourable commissioner for Sokoto State of Ministry of Science and Technology, Mr. Nazir Zarummai spoke on the need for NITDA to factor in the specific requirements of each state, adding that NITDA needed to play a crucial role in aligning such requirements in the Smart City program.
The meeting closed with an commitment to leverage several existing NITDA structures and programs including NITDA zonal offices, the software testing centre in Lagos, the “eGovFrame” software development platform available free of charge to local developers and end-users and the World e-Government Organization for Cities and Local Government (WeGO) membership and resources open to local developments to develop e-government capability and capacity. NITDA will play the role of project facilitator for all projects developed under the smart city initiative although project ownership will remain with the states