You may question why one should discuss smart cities when there is arguably no smart state in Nigeria. You may say Lagos, but when you look at the indexes for identifying a smart city including transport and mobility, digitisation, living standard and governance, the centre of excellence has a long way to go.
To make the discussion probably unworthy, tourism in Nigeria is still at the analogue stage and it is seriously struggling and making small efforts to drive itself to the digital phase.
These minute strides are being made by the likes of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation, Tour Operators, Online Travel Agency like Jumia‘s Hotel and Flight Marketplace and others. There is so much to be done.
Nevertheless, it is important to talk about smart cities in relation to the tourism industry and the economy at large because we are in a tech world. With technology comes innovation and you know that innovation is dynamic. If you do not innovate, be prepared to become irrelevant.
Clearly, smart cities are the future and it is no surprise that countries like Singapore, Barcelona, London, San Francisco and Oslo are the top five smart cities in the world according to Market research firm Juniper Research. Therefore, it is important for Nigeria to march towards becoming one.
What is a Smart City? It is a city that has the ability to utilise data aggregated by intelligent sensors for streamlining city operations and guaranteeing public safety. Some of the benefits of a smart city include (a)More effective, data-driven decision-making (b) Enhanced citizen and government engagement (c) safer communities, improved transportation (d) Increased digital equity (e) New economic development opportunities and efficient public utilities.
How Nigeria Can Become a Smart Country?
Nigeria is yet to become a smart city. However, one must point out some of the gains the country has made over the years.
According to the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC), the country has over 103 million internet users and many of them use smartphones. They use their internet savvy smartphones to book flights, hotels and also shop on Jumia. They will be preparing to do so as Black Friday knocks on the door.
Furthermore, tech companies like Google and Facebook are working assiduously to provide public internet for Nigerians. And in many of Nigeria’s higher institutions, relatively free and affordable internet is provided to enable students research and learn with ease. These are some of the features of a smart city.
This said, there is still a lot of work to be done. Becoming a smart city requires huge capital investment. But if the government and the private sector can partner via a Public and Private Partnership (PPP), being a smart city will become feasible in the next few years.
Some of the ways to become a smart city are: (1) Optimising intracity connectivity (2) Encouraging information sharing (3) Enabling real-time response (4) Driving sustainable initiative (5) Promoting security & economic growth (6) Effective waste management
The Role of Smart Cities in Boosting Tourism Experiences
Today’s travellers may no longer select where to visit based on the beauty, faux and fauna of the destination. Rather, they will take a holistic look at these destinations before they decide considering factors like security, internet provision and infrastructure availability. If any of these things are lacking, such destinations may not make their itinerary.
In the case of Nigeria, tourist and historical destinations are ‘begging’ to be revamped by the government. To exacerbate the situation, many of these destinations lack relevant infrastructure.
Therefore, one of the things the government must do alongside developing smart cities is to revamp these awesome destinations. If not, Nigeria will be losing out as it is currently doing. Visitors want a seamless and smooth trip.
For example, immediately they arrive at the airport, they are cleared by the immigration service, they do not worry about their security, they can use their smartphones to book rides and hotels and the roads are very good. Such a visitor will definitely have something positive to say and will always want to return.
Hence, if the government is really serious about boosting tourism experience for both local and international tourists, they must look at developing and creating smart cities.