IBM, AMA team up to make city smarter

Business News of Friday, 12 April 2013

Source: B&FT

Alfred Vandapuye

Global computing giant IBM has identified three major challenges facing Accra which it wants the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) to address for the betterment of residents. IBM has identified revenue leakages, traffic congestion and energy as the biggest challenges confronting the country’s capital city — which it wants to provide smart technologies to tackle.

Subsequently, IBM on Wednesday presented a white paper on Accra challenges to the AMA, which the Assembly has begun to implement to seal its revenue potholes and facilitate transportation. The white paper is aligned to the National Urban Policy Framework and Action plan, which is aimed at improving infrastructure and raising revenue to reduce poverty and tackle the city’s growth challenges.

The Country General Manager of IBM, Joe Mensah, said the white paper on the smarter city project for Accra follows work by the firm’s executives, who visited the capital and spent about a month to identify and understand the challenges of the city. “Mastercard’s African cities growth index ranked Accra as one of the top cities in terms of economic potential over the next five years. Everyone sees Accra as a city that is ready to take off, yet we do have challenges we need to confront to ensure that type of growth and potential become a reality.

“The National Urban Policy framework that has been put together is the beginning of how we can go about handling the challenges facing Accra and alleviate poverty within the Accra environment, hence the IBM report on Accra dubbed ‘A vision for smarter growth: an IBM smarter cities report on Accra, Ghana’. “This report that we have launched came about as a result of the smart city challenge that Accra won some years ago, when IBM committed funds for executives to visit the city and spent about a month to identify and understand the challenges of the city,” he said.

According to the report, AMA is losing about half of its revenue from city services due to its inability to map populations and at the same time control the number of vehicles on the roads, 70 percent of which carry only 30 percent of the people. Additionally, the frequent blackouts and load-shedding of power have been found to impact negatively the business operations that have proliferated as a result of increased economic activities – and which have put a strain on the energy resources of the country. IBM has concluded that these challenges confronting the city of Accra can be resolved through mobile payment systems that could help make the process of paying property taxes easier for residents.

More so, smart and networked traffic lights could help to ease the flow of traffic through the city as well as the use of smart meters and grids that can help to reduce the strain on existing resources — enabling businesses and energy-providers to save money and generate additional revenue.

The Mayor of AMA, Dr. Alfred Vanderpuije, said the Assembly has begun to implement some of the recommendations in the IBM report to peg, especially, revenue leakages in the Assembly. He said the AMA is currently using Point of Sale terminals in the collection of revenue within the Accra metropolis following deliberations with officials of IBM. Dr. Vanderpuije said the Assembly has intensified its revenue collection efforts and will not hesitate to take legal action against offenders including state-run institutions.

“I want to send a strong message to Government institutions which have not been paying their revenue as they should to do so. In June this year, any institution in the city — including MMDA’s who would fail to pay their revenue to the Assembly — will be prosecuted to get revenue to do what we have to do. “We have already begun with residents of Accra, and will take it to business establishments and Government institutions,” he said.