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By Moses Kaketo
As Uganda Police and other security organs continue for the search of the ‘ ‘thugs’’ [as president Museveni prefers to call them] behind the murder of Assistant Inspector of Police Andrew Felix Kaweesi, and other high profile Ugandans murdered in the recent past, the story would be different if Uganda had a smart city.
A smart city is made up of an integrated system that seamlessly link into one another for improved service delivery and efficiency. The ‘smart’ concept refers to the ability to be in control of what is happening anytime.In an era where nearly every Ugandan owns a smart phone or at least a simple mobile phone, it is painful to read stories of eyewitness accounts of how they witnessed assailants kill and move on.
‘ ‘Men dressed in long black jackets with head scarfs were seen riding on two motorcycles. Then the men pretended to be fixing a problem on their motorcycle just a few meters from the home of Andrew Felix Kaweesi at Tuba village, Kulambiro, a suburb of Kampala. It later turned out that they were buying time while waiting for Kaweesi to start his journey. With a driver and one bodyguard, Kaweesi left his home at about 9:38am. A man wearing a brown jacket, approached the pick-up from right hand side and stopped at the driver’s window, shot twice and speed off on a runaway motorcycle rode by another masked masculine person.” one witness told The Observer reporter
Question: What did witness (es) do after watching this painful episode? Did they call police? Quite rightly, they were helpless. Even if they had called the Uganda Police hotline (112), the call would have gone (terminated) to the Central Police Station (CPS), Because Uganda Police stations and numerous police booth are not interlinked to receive SOS calls based on proximity and or capacity.
Whilst, Police stations and other security officers nearby the crime scene would offer the best first response by sealing off all roads and bypasses to and from the crime scene. Such a response would lessen exit options by the culprits and make it easier to zero on them by “closing down on them”.
Read: Kasiwukira murder: Why do women kill their lovers?
In the case of Kaweesi murder, there are a number of police stations surrounding the crime scene which would have made it easy for police to arrest the ‘thugs’, unfortunately there was no clear coordination mechanisms for timely response. According to local dailies, the first Police Patrol arrived at the crime scene 30 minutes after the unfortunate incident.
And that is where the smart city concept comes in.
The London experience
Late 2004, Daniel Bwanika, a physical planner consultant and the Principal Kampala School of Urban planning, experienced a theft incident in one of the London streets.
‘‘A man parked his car in front of his apartment along one of the London streets. A few minutes later, a thief broke into it the car and stole a few variables and the speakers.’’ Said Bwanika
Read: Uganda is steadily moving towards a cashless economy
Mr. Bwanika was seeing everything from his sitting room. He called the Metropolitan police which asked him “Not to hang up.”The police further asked him to disguise and point the phone towards the thief and follow him. Unknown to him, the police could see the scene via
his phone mobile from their control room. Police patrols and those on the motorcycles in the area where alerted. They came from all directions and the thief was arrested in no time. That is one of the things, that make a smart city “smart”.
According to Mr. Bwanika, there is an urgent need to plan and establish a smart city in Uganda as it would bring enormous opportunities to Uganda and Ugandans including high quality employment for researchers engineers, software developer’s and the economy at large.
read: Museveni orders on Chinese and Indian petty traders
But, it will be bad news for the criminals and the corrupt. Would towards eating big from president Museveni’s directive to install cameras in major towns and highways.
Employment to Ugandans
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In a city like London, each of area that is equivalent of a Town Council in Uganda has got over 100 town planners, software engineers, researchers whose roles is to come up with solutions to problems that crop up in the community.
In Holland, there is a big challenge of land. They have since started constructing underground (below the water) thanks to their researchers.
In the US, the majority of the houses are built using stones and wood, and they last longer as opposed to Sand and Bricks as it’s done in Uganda.
Good news for Uganda
‘‘Luckily, Uganda has all it takes to develop a smart city. The infrastructure and technology already exists. What is lacking is commitment from our leaders. The Chinese have already laid the Cable network infrastructure. We have Satellite Dish in Mpooma and Arua built by the late Idi Amin government. Add the Umeme Power lines that run in the largest part of Uganda. All we need is fixing the nodes and rejuvenate these systems and start enjoying benefits’’ says Mr. Bwanika.
Many Makerere University graduates, a university with one of the best computing campuses in Africa with support from top technology players like Nokia, Microsoft and Google, end up working in internet cafes due to lack of local absorption capacity. Why should a graduate of Computer Engineering end up managing an Internet café, just to eke a living?
If Uganda had a smart city, these students would be developing software to solve pertinent challenges like traffic jam, help measure pollution in our water and air in Kampala, among others.
Among the many benefits of smart city would be high quality employment, improving life and positioning of Uganda as a key destination. Take an example of South Korea.
A small country that used technology to advance and position herself globally. Today, nearly everyone wants to use Samsung products and technologies. With a smart city, Uganda’s enormous problems would be a thing of the past. However, this requires great leadership and long-term focus.
Smart city and public transport
With a Smart City there is no need for one to wait for long for a taxi. You are able to know when the next taxi or bus will be coming. Imagine the current cost of heavy traffic jam to Uganda’s economy. One leaves home or office early only to be caught in the traffic jam. If you ply routes like Entebbe road daily, out of your 12 months in a year, more than 20 years are wasted in traffic jam!
READ: Kampala traffic jam: What happened to metropolitan planning?
Not with a smart city. At the click of a button, one would be able to know prices of goods and services, and the location of the cheapest providers. With a smart city, just in case you left your water taps running at home by mistake, you don’t have to drive back. All you need is your phone as it would act as your remote control.
Smart way to fix Uganda’s challenges
Read: Shocking: How Amin got rid of all the disabled people in Kampala
The Uganda imports 715,000 tonnes of petroleum annually. That is too much for a country which imports more than it exports. This money can be diverted to other crucial things if only we can build smart railway systems and Trams first linking major residential towns and pivotal places in Kampala that is: Mulago, Ben Kiwanuka Street, and Makerere.
These are places visited by many people daily. Building Trams interlinking the Central Business District would save the country a lot of money currently spent on importing fuels and vehicle spare parts. Uganda buys more than 5,000 ‘new’ cars every month. That is huge foreign exchange outflow, considering that on average two people sit in a six-sitter car daily – that is 4 seats empty.
Investing in certain locomotives would cost us less in the future than what we spend now. For example, to build Trams(A tram is a rail vehicle which runs on tracks along public urban streets) requires the services of two experts to design, implement and test the system.
The total cost of the project would be less than US$ 500m. This is a long-term project which will not break down as regularly as vehicles and roads. Remember repairing one kilometre of road is estimated at US $800m. Not with a tram.
The beauty with Kampala is that it was well planned. The rail line built by British goes through Mukono, Bujjuko, and Mityana where the city is expanding. This railway line can be expanded to other developing areas of Buloba, Wakiso, and Busega, Ntinda, Gayaza and the rest of Kampala.
If the British built this system, why can’t we do it and save this so much that we spend monthly on importing fuel?
Across in Kenya, Nairobi is in advanced stages of setting up a Tram system. One wonders why Uganda is a laggard in game changer projects that would unlock the economy instantly. It is move viable to gain middle income status by reducing on imports and one-way is reducing on fuel and vehicle imports.
We need to develop smart cities now to avoid a crisis in the future. And this does not mean we chase away bodaboda’s from the city. We need to involve our universities, researchers to come up with better solutions to our problems. Can we use our educational institutions to think for solutions that address real problems?
A few years ago, one of universities in USA undertook a study that reverses a boiled egg to its original process. Why can’t our researchers come up with solutions on how to improve on the farm hoe? Over to you our planners and PhD holders!
About the writer: Moses Kaketo is a contributing writer with Newz Post. He sees business in everything. He loves writing business news, reviews and analyses.