Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Honours student projects for 2016

The honours students on the project have finalised their research proposals for 2016. Here they each describe their research...

Isa Osmany
Big Data Applications in Smart Cities: A Delphi Study of Components and Challenges to Implementation
This research intends to carry out an exploratory study aimed at identifying the main challenges and key components required to design, develop, and implement smart city applications which utilize big data. A Delphi study consisting of two rounds will take place. In the first round, experts in big data and smart cities will be used to identify the key required components and main challenges. In the second round, these components and challenges will then be rated, according to their importance, and ranked in descending order.

Bonolo Motsepe
South African municipal websites: examining website maturity and the relationship with human development indicators
A smart city is a city which encompasses many different aspects. It makes use of ICT tools and applications to provide better access to and delivery of government services. These services extend across the domains of natural resources and energy, transport and mobility, buildings, living, government, as well as the economy. E-Government initiatives, which form a part of smart city projects, use ICT tools and applications to improve service delivery to society. Local governments in South Africa are implementing smart city initiatives, e-government initiatives as well as poverty alleviation programmes to improve living conditions. The maturity of e-government is dependent on the presence of certain of website features. Website maturity is accelerating in the public sector, with a special focus on functionality and performance, and municipalities have moved away from static dissemination of information.
My study aims to investigate the current state of e-government maturity in South Africa, and examine the relationship maturity has with human development indicators. To achieve this, I employ a purposive sampling of 26 municipal websites. The research is quantitative and descriptive in nature and follows a positivist paradigm. The outcome of this paper will be the current state of e-government in South Africa, and the relationship of e-government maturity with human development indicators. Recommendations will be made on the improvements required for progressive e-government.

Letlotlo Khoathane
Ecosystem factors that impact the implementation of smart city services
Smart cities are a relatively new phenomenon in Africa and little research has been carried out in this context. Therefore identifying factors that contribute towards a smart city ecosystem is significant to understand how smart city services can be implemented within South Africa. The identification of ecosystem factors that have an impact on smart city service implementation can substantially contribute towards understanding which factors to focus on to ensure a greater chance of successful smart city services implementation within the City of Johannesburg. With this understanding, organisations that have a vested interest in smart services can be prepared in dealing with the complexities of implementing smart services and further know how to go about fostering innovation within the city. This research therefore proposes a framework that explores 6 dimensions which are suggested to encompass smart city ecosystem factors. The model is tested using a quantitative approach and makes use of a close-ended field survey. An electronic survey will be distributed to 400 potential respondents in order to gain at least 80 useful responses. The research makes use of regression analysis to establish the extent to which the proposed factors impact the successful implementation of smart city services in the City of Johannesburg.

Lizalise Myataza
A study of data science use for informated transport services within Southern African Development Community countries
In order to achieve a successful transportation sector, it is imperative for a country to have decent transport infrastructure and services. However, this is not the case as many African countries are still grossly underdeveloped with regards to transportation. The idea of smart cities is a much debated topic in terms of what qualifies as smartness for smart cities, and how this can be achieved. The general consensus by authors is that smart cities can enhance the quality of life and transform the transportation industry by providing informated transport services to create an informated living experience. In addition, the emergence of data science brings high hopes for enhancing smart cities due to its capability to transform city life by utilizing big data to provide increased sophistication, in-depth and real time knowledge and management of a city on a larger scale. The research studies the concept of creating smart cities through the provision of informated transport services using data science technologies, specifically in SADC countries.
This research is an exploratory study underpinned by a qualitative methodology. A study is conducted across informated service providers in African cities and the findings are reflected in the research report. The purpose of the study is to determine what informated transport services are offered in SADC countries, identify the providers of such services and establish to what extent informated transport services are supported by data science. The research explores the initial steps for futures studies that may assess the impact of data science use in smart informated services.

Kundai Mutseyekwa
Influential factors for corporations to invest in smart city initiatives as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes in South Africa
The study examines the factors that influence public limited companies and multinational companies to invest in smart city initiatives in South Africa as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes. The study is conducted in South Africa and focuses on corporate social responsibility and smart cities. It aims to fill a gap in our understanding of corporate social responsibility and smart cities: Why do corporations invest in smart city initiatives? The study will provide guidance to stakeholders who are seeking funding from corporations for smart city initiatives. Stakeholders will understand the factors that influence corporations to fund smart city initiatives as part of their social responsibility programmes. This study will be a contribution to academia and to practice.

Brian Pheelwane
Factors influencing the adoption of smartphone applications in the context of a smart city’s e-services
This research focuses on the adoption of smartphone applications (smart city apps), which will assist citizens to access and utilise the services provided by the City of Johannesburg. The factors that influence the adoption of smart city e-services are investigated for further knowledge on how these services can enhance quality of life and to explore challenges in the implementation and adoption of smartphone applications to deliver services efficiently to the city’s residents. This research is underpinned by Rogers 1995 Innovation Diffusion Theory (IDT). The theory will be explored for knowledge that can assist the City in enhancing its smart city status, through the use of e-services.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Data collection: A tale of two African cities

Intrepid master's student Nalukui Malambo has been completing her data collection and writes here about the experience...

Nairobi (Kenya)
My data collection trip in Nairobi was conducted over a period of 14 days from the 6th to 19th of April 2016. Being the first time in Kenya and not knowing anyone or where I was going, a quick realisation that bravery was on call kicked in immediately.

The data collection was more of an adventurous process than usual, the pace started out a little slower, the first few days involved orienting myself to the city, sorting out tech (buying a sim card, registering on the local network, and finding the right power adapters took a whole day), learning how to navigate the local transportation networks and routes, finding suitable accommodation, restaurants, local supermarkets and understanding the basic words in the commonly spoken local language Swahili.  Although Kenya's official language is English, local languages are still widely spoken. Navigation around the city was made easier by the assistance of a student guide (extremely important if you are there for the first time).

I conducted a total of 11 interviews within and around Nairobi with various stakeholders identified for the research.  The first set of interviews were conducted in Machakos county, specifically in an area called Konza. Konza is situated 60 kilometres outside Nairobi, earmarked to be a new Smart city by the government of Kenya to be built from scratch, locally referred to as “Konza Technology City”. 

"Getting around was interesting..."
Getting around was interesting. My trip from Nairobi to Konza started out on a Friday at 6am using local public minibuses known as matatu. It took approximately 3 hours and 3 matatus to Konza, as there is no direct route to Konza using public transport. Access into the residential area from the main road required the use of a local motor-bike (boda-boda) to the area chief’s office. Before conducting the interviews, permission from the current Chief was requested and granted. Stakeholders interviewed at Konza included: the area Chief, a former Councillor, the secondary school principal and local residents, as well as a site visit to the construction area where the city structures are to be constructed. At the time of my site visit, the Konza project team had just broken ground a week before.  On observation, Konza is a beautiful area and strategically located on Kenya’s main highway leading from Nairobi to Mombasa. The land still remains pretty much virgin land, with an abundance of all sorts of wild animals, a swampy patch and plenty of vegetation.

Interviewing the Konza area Chief
Back in Nairobi, some of the interviews were conducted at the Konza administrative offices. The Konza project office (KotDA) was established to oversee the implementation of the Konza Technology City project tasked with managing the new Smart City project under the directorate of CEO John Tanui. Overall, data collection in Nairobi took on an unstructured approach, partly because of the nature of the research being exploratory, as well as the nature of key informants that snowballed from informant to informant. In addition, I spent most of my free time (which included weekends) collecting information on the smart city agenda from pedestrians, noting construction activities and taking photographs. I also interviewed representatives of organisations that are indirectly involved in the Smart City agenda such as the United Nations, IBM, Cisco, University of Nairobi etc.

Cape Town (South Africa)
My data collection trip to Cape Town started out on the 7th to 12th February 2016. In contrast to Nairobi, the trip was short and structured. Before leaving for Cape Town, I had diarised eight interviews and managed to secure an extra four while in Cape Town. I conducted at least three interviews per day with the various stakeholders involved in the Smart City initiatives of Cape Town.

My way around Cape Town was simple. The city has well run and organised, structured public transport. I used Uber for most of my morning rides (to avoid arriving late at my meeting destinations) as my accommodation was situated 11 kilometres out of the way of public transportation.  It was easy to find my way around the city even though this was not my first time in Cape Town. I hopped on and off public transportation for my afternoon ride (train, taxi and buses) to the hotel and any other meeting places I had to get to.

I would like to think my data collection trip to Cape Town prepared me to some extent for my Nairobi trip from a research point of view, but the experience was very different and I was not prepared for the differences in how the cities worked. 

From this, I learnt that a certain comfort with ambiguity is necessary to conducting research in an African city, which most often comes with the upside of learning creative problem solving skills. I learnt that information is available, but not necessarily in the places you expect to find it. Most importantly, I learnt that you have to be brave, patient and flexible to collect data in African cities.