Public and Private Sector Partnerships are Necessary for Funding Smart City Initiatives

Lagos, Nigeria is a completely different place compared to two generations ago.

In 60 years, the population has expanded from a humble 200,000 to an incredible 20 million. For many citizens, this rapid increase has resulted in an isolation from amenities like piped water. Streets are regularly at a standstill, completely congested with traffic.

This sort of rapid urbanisation is one of those issues that is already significant but has the potential to spiral into unimaginable extremes in future years. Measures have to be taken now to adapt already strained infrastructures to accommodate urban societies of vastly larger numbers.

Existing public infrastructure needs to be updated in anticipation of population increases and be able to adapt accordingly with greater resilience. It’s estimated that 66% of the global population will live in urbanised areas by 2050. Cities need to invest in smarter city initiatives in order to build coping mechanisms into their urban fabric.

However, this is easier said than done. The reality is that where these upgrades are most required in the developing world are also the places where public finances are likely to be most restricted. As such, public-private-partnerships are an answer for municipalities to undertake necessary adaption programmes in order to successfully digitalise their infrastructures.

Public-private-partnerships can build new intelligence into legacy systems, with effective examples seen worldwide, from Hitachi in Copenhagen, to Mexico City, which works with a non-profit for earthquake detection.

Cities that enable specialised entrepreneurs to identify urban problems and bring forth technological solutions are safeguarding their infrastructures. Many governments see the value in embracing specialists that can better identify solutions to problems, free of governmental frameworks.

As a private enterprise entering into a public-private-partnership it’s important to identify what the city needs and how to fulfil those needs. Governmental bodies are looking for innovative ways that companies can deploy technology to improve everything from the efficiency of traffic management to water and energy use.

DAS is an example of how cities can build new intelligence into existing infrastructures, advancing monitoring and future planning capabilities. Augmenting fibre optic cables with DAS platform technologies can provide city authorities with real-time data streams to be used for a wide range of infrastructure projects.

At Fotech, we recently entered a public-private-partnership with the city of Calgary, that explored the potential of DAS in traffic and light rail management infrastructure. During the trial, we used the monitoring capabilities of DAS to provide real-time insights into the journey of an autonomous vehicle (AV) and to track the exact location of the numerous trams travelling on the city’s light rail network.

Aside from the technological importance of DAS to the employment of AVs and train tracking, the trial was a good example of the benefits of public-private-partnerships — and how they can help cities digitalise their transport infrastructure in the near future.

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