Africa's emerging “Smart Cities”


The rate at which Wi-Fi is growing in Africa is better than most think, says Michael Fletcher, sub-Saharan Africa Sales Director at Ruckus Wireless, he believes some cities in Africa will soon become Smart Cities.

“Nowadays it’s virtually impossible to go to a hotel or a mall and not find Wi-Fi, whether it’s for fee or free,” he said.

According to Fletcher, the demand for such services comes mostly from consumers and the advancements in technology.


“You get a new phone, your phone has more pixels so you just need more and more [data] but it’s not just demand, it’s being able to do it more cost effectively,” said Fletcher.

He explains Wi-Fi is becoming more and more necessary, with new technology such as laptops which no longer have Ethernet ports and only connect to Wi-Fi.

The need is further emphasised by the heavy data costs people are burdened with.

“If we go down to the lower end of the market, if you’re buying mobile data and you need to buy 100 megs a day, it’s going to cost you about 50 bucks, put that together over 30 days – that’s 1 500 rand you’re paying for in data,” said Fletcher.

Cities are also appreciating the need to aid in convenience and connectivity.

“It’s being able to connect people and you have the ability to also reduce your costs, one example in the smart city side of it is with parking meters,” said Fletcher

He adds how in Cape Town, the parking attendants connect back into the systems over their cellphones which ends up being costly. Fletcher looks forward to us using WiFi to locate parking spaces using location services.

Smart Cities are places where convenience is found by making traditional networks and services more efficient through connectivity, digital and telecommunication technologies, for the residents and surrounding businesses.

And that is what they are trying to do in Cape Town, Fletcher says.

“We’ve got a convention centre; there is another one that is coming on board soon, so it’s all just finding ways of connecting people.”

Recently the City of Johannesburg announced that the student dense, vibrant area of Braamfontein will be getting 100 per cent free Wi-Fi as part of a broader smart city project.

Flecture is glad that the other cities are following suit from Tshwane which has been on this route since about a couple of years ago.

“Tshwane jumped out ahead of everyone probably two years ago and then some of the other metros slowly followed but now that we have two metros that are going kind of wholesale into Wi-Fi, it just bodes well for everyone,” he said.

“We are hoping to see other metros do the same thing.”