Huawei pushes for Africa Safe and Smart cities network

Huawei is meeting with several government leaders in Africa to detail how its safe city solution, showcased in Kenya late last week, could be used to facilitate a continent-wide network of safe cities.

The ICT company says it envisions widespread rollout of the solution which is now fully implemented in Nairobi and Mombasa, since initial integration in partnership with consulting firms, system integrators and several software vendors in 2014.

Hong Eng Koh, Global Chief Public Safety Expert at Huawei Enterprise Group says meetings with senior government representatives as well as the company’s local partners in South Africa over the past two days have made it clear that there are opportunities to make cities, the country and the entire region safer through the use of cloud computing, social media, mobility, big data and other technologies of the digital age.

“Safe city starts from the home. Every citizen has to understand that they have a role in public safety, not just the government or the police. From the home you then have the city or town and that is where you start building up after conducting threat assessments and focusing on cities with higher threats first by rolling out what is needed like a command control centre, intelligence, videos surveillance or trunk radio systems for video and communication interoperability etc.

“While you build up you probably have a city based project, but because criminals and even terrorists are mobile, you need to build up to a national command centre. The national command centre will not be used for security only because you want to make sure that you maximise the investment for the taxpayer.

“That national centre can be used for utility or even health services ultimately leading to a smart city or a smart nation. You’ve got to slowly build up the network and ensure that on the other hand, the African continent achieves intercountry cooperation.”

Koh says partnerships between private companies and the government enabled the safe city solution in Kenya to become a success and that same approach should be adopted by cities and counties across the continent.

“Today we are not just fighting one criminal because with digital economy technologies the bad guys are leveraging this technology and this is why we need to form a network of good people to fight the network of bad people. There are several elements to this network. They are interagency collaboration which you have in South Africa between SAPS and the metropolitan police, collaboration of processes and people is also vital and you also need collaboration between countries because South Africa is surrounded by other countries and bad elements may go between borders.

“To me public-private partnerships are even more important. The meaning of public-private partnerships here is collaboration between the government and the people who can be individuals or organisations. We need citizens to be the eyes and ears and you need the organisations to work together and even share information including that which they gathered from their own surveillance. This is a crowd-sourcing approach that is part of the digital economy. In Kenya we partnered Safaricom and different software providers to complete the solution.”

Shaka Kwach, Head of Special Projects at Safaricom says according to the 2015 Kenya Police annual report crime rates in Nairobi have dropped by as much as 46%, and this is largely due to their partnership for the the safe city project which also helped to secure visits by US president Barack Obama and Pope Francis.

“After Westgate security became an even bigger priority and the government said ‘let’s build a safe city’. We then got into a public private partnership and Safaricom as the leading operator in Kenya engaged with government and we partnered with Huawei. We built an emergency contact centre which could field 25000 to 35000 calls a day. We build one in Nairobi and a secondary one in Mombasa,” said Kwach.