While the idea of turning Nelson Mandela Bay into a fully fledged “smart city” may be a necessity to align the metro with the fourth industrial revolution for some, for others there are unique social barriers that must first be addressed.
Some of these issues include rampant crime in Port Elizabeth’s northern areas and townships, spatial planning that isolates the workforce from the city centre, and ballooning unemployment.
The issues, highlighted by attendees of the future cities seminar hosted by the Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) in partnership with Nelson Mandela University – if not addressed – could further segregate communities who already have to make daily decisions of choosing to buy bread instead of data.
Adendorff Architects owner Dr Gillian Adendorff, during her keynote address, said smart cities and future cities would bring increased complexity and transform the ways we interacted with governments, purchased products and managed our health and lives.
“When we consider the children born after 2010 – generation alpha – these are people of the screen.
“They will not accept the limitations we once faced.”
Adendorff said one of the critical components of future cities was the concept of “the internet of things” – where everyday objects and appliances are constantly connected to one another and the internet.
“When we move to 5G, it will change the way the world works, it will change how our city works.
“Using 5G will mean that it will take 3.6 seconds to download a two-hour-long movie.
“Using 3G, this could have taken up to 26 hours, and using 4G six minutes.”
5G networks are the next generation of mobile internet connectivity, offering faster speeds and more reliable connections on smartphones and other devices.
But panellist and MBDA CEO Ashraf Adam cautioned that it was evident that those who were considered to be privileged pre-1994 were still able to capitalise on the post1994 economic boom.
This then was likely to be the case with the availability of opportunities with the data revolution, he said.
“Our country’s race and class divides are aptly demonstrated in the value chains of this revolution that enables the concept of a smart city.
“These divides are played out in municipal spaces all the time and the actions related to economic exclusion are what municipalities deal with every day, within a highly regulated framework,” Adam said.
“How then does the smart city discussion in South Africa instill the very real challenges of benefits and distribution?
“The leafy suburbs and the ganglands are not the same but both extremes share the same legitimate entitlement and claims in those municipal spaces.”
NMU PhD sociology candidate Pedro Mzileni said the smart city concept in SA could not be modelled through a “European modernity” – as this would be a stream for the continuous recycling of privilege.
“We need to slow down a bit. In 2040 our people are still going to need clothes and food. People will still gossip and there will still be elections.
“What I dislike about discussions of modernity and smart cities, there’s always the point that’s made that it will affect the poor and resolve inequality.
“But how do we create smart cities or smart villages that are actually going to create work and income for black people?”
Adendorff, in response, said there was no standard measurement as to what a smart city should include but it had to be constructed and envisioned by the citizens who resided in that region.
“Our paradigm is completely unique.
“We can learn from other countries and adapt it for our specific requirements.”