“Today the RGM International Airport saw the completion of its Virtual Zoo, featuring all of the Big Five animals. Tourists can now wander through the Zoo’s construct and interact with locally developed AI personality, Shumi, who will walk them through the magnificence and history of Zimbabwe’s most celebrated animals.
The installation was built just next to the recently upgraded cyber lounge which now allows you to book at the NBT (National Bullet Train) to the newly built stations in Binga and Chimanimani.
The director of the Zim Smart Cities initiative described the recent upgrades to the airport as a step in the right direction for Zimbabwe’s tourism sector.”
These are the realities imagined for a future Zimbabwe that reaches “Smart City” status!
Today, such a reality seems ridiculously far-fetched, however, the Zimbabwe Smart Sustainable Cities Initiative launched in Harare on Wednesday is confident that, at some point in the future, this is completely possible.
The Zimbabwe Smart Sustainable Cities Initiative was launched in consultation with the Government of Zimbabwe, its ministries, local and international businesses, the diplomatic corps, strategic partners, local institutions and the extended Zimbabwean and diaspora communities.
Its stated purpose: To unpack the operationalisation and implementation of the National ICT Policy towards achieving a Zimbabwe Smart Sustainable Cities Roadmap.
Speakers at the event were Harare Metropolitan Minister Honourable Miriam Chikukwa, Econet Wireless Zimbabwe General manager Partnerships Dr Andrew Nyambayo, Internet Society Trust Executive Director Reuben Gwatidzo, Huawei Zimbabwe Public Relations Head Lightman Lai, Mango Executive Director Jim Holland, Life Coach and Author Father Fidelis Mukonori SJ and Zimbabwe Smart Sustainable Cities Initiative Founder-cum-Regain 37 Chief Executive Officer Tawanda Jonathan Mushawedu.
There was general consensus that there are major issues that need to be addressed at a basic level such as clean water, reliable electricity and infrastructural development to name a few. Privacy was a big issue raised, Jim Holland aptly stated that one of the scariest things about the future is people being confused about what is privacy.
A connected city means that access to data and surveillance scales up to a much more complex level than our infrastructure currently supports. This makes privacy and security the biggest risk factors.
Minister Chikukwa also spoke on the importance of a mind-set shift in people to accommodate the changes that come with pursuing societal behaviours and tech systems adaptation.
Gwatidzo from ISIT proposed that perhaps the conversations around designing a smart city roadmap should also be carried out in vernacular languages, to allow for a wider spread intrinsic understanding of the mind-set and competency development that would need to take place in order to successfully transition the country towards smart city status.
Kigali, Rwanda was used as the benchmark for the direction that the country needs to be taking. Now rated the country with the fastest growing economy in Africa, Rwanda has become a case study for what technology adoption and a strong leadership at policy level can do to turn around a country.
The overall message was that this process will take time, it cannot happen in isolation and needs participation from all societal stakeholders, there is need for intensive research and education as well as a clear roadmap for future generations to follow.
The organisers have committed to hosting the first Smart Cities Symposium in Zimbabwe in June of this year, sharing their ambitions to involve global tech leaders such as Bill Gates and Jack Ma. Ambitious.