Tuesday, 15 April 2014

SEBS to undertake research into Smart Cities in Africa

How can we make Johannesburg and other African cities “smarter”? What exactly is a “Smart City”,
in the African context? Researchers in SEBS are going to be working with the City of Johannesburg
over the next three years to better understand these questions.

Professor Jason Cohen, together with Professors Judy Backhouse and Ray Kekwaletswe as co-investigators, have been awarded R 632 400 by the National Research Foundation (NRF) for a three year project titled: “Information systems for Smart Cities in Africa: understanding demand for and supply of services”.

The concept of Smart Cities encompasses green building technologies, quality of life measures, as well as the use of information and communication technologies to improve life in cities. We are interested in how information systems are or can be used to make cities comfortable and attractive places for citizens, organisations, and visitors. Cities need to manage increasing urban populations; to integrate services for health, education, safety, transportation, and utilities; to improve the quality of life of their citizens, and be sustainable. Such demands cannot easily be met without information systems and technologies that are infused into city services, inter-connected, accessible, and available for use.

The project will examine the demand for information services from citizens and organisations as well as the systems, technologies, and practices that are in place to provide information services. Our research will extend previous research on how to identify the demand for information services and how to decide what systems, technologies, and practices are best suited to supply information services. We will also be looking at how to prioritise and effect the delivery of these services. The research has both an academic focus, on developing theories and frameworks to understand information flows in cities, as well as having practical application to the challenges facing African cities.

The grant was awarded as part of the NRF’s 2014 competitive programme for rated researchers. The award includes funding for honours and master’s students who will enjoy the experience of working in a research team as part of a large funded study.