Smart technologies are not the monopoly of mature economies where they already have sound fundamentals, but also poor countries struggling to scale up their own innovations for local needs.
Among these innovations are the potentially important home-grown technologies in the field of mobile connectivity that could speed up the process of setting up Smart Cities.
In Kenya, for example, the iCow app offers a range of information and services to cow farmers to help them boost the volume of milk and increase the potential income they can raise.
Among the features the app offers is the chance for farmers to track each member of their herd individually and develop customised immunisation plans.
In Ghana, the Hei-Julor service lets mobile users alert friends, family, police and a private security company when there are intruders in their home.
In Zimbabwe, the concept of the connected home is being harnessed by Econet. The telecoms company’s offering includes a mobile-based remote health monitoring system.
The Yoza mobile app in Uganda is a platform that connects people with dirty laundry to mobile washerwomen.
M-Kopa in Kenya has developed a business selling solar power kit to help citizens cut down on what they spend on energy, whether kerosene, batteries or simply in charging their mobile phones, or providing them with a source of affordable electricity where previously none existed at all.
The potential of such innovations is huge: Approximately 600 new customers join M-Kopa every day. The company is set to double in 2016 and expects to sell its millionth system by the end of 2017. It is already exploring the potential for collecting data from its devices. It has received a clear vote of confidence from investors, raising $19m in late-2015.
In South Africa the iShack has been created with the aim of providing proper shelter to people living in some of the country’s poorest communities but in a way that harnesses solar power to provide electricity to those living in the structures.
The electricity generated can power three lights, a mobile phone charger and an outdoor motion detector spotlight to help deter intruders and reduce the risk of crime.
The iShack’s design also helps to regulate temperature inside the building and enables inhabitants to harvest rainwater. The scheme has been backed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
In India there have been suggestions to turn railways stations into transport hubs and provide for better integration between different forms of transport, from buses to taxis, to auto-rickshaws and links to airports.
The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor scheme is another example of the Indian government’s commitment to Smart Cities. This will help build the necessary infrastructure to turn India into a manufacturing and services base and converge next generation technologies across infrastructure sectors.