For a second year in a row, Kenya’s busy capital city of Nairobi has been named the most intelligent city in Africa — failing, however, to make it to the world’s top seven finalists.
According to the Intelligent Community Forum, “intelligent communities” are those that have taken “conscious steps” to create an economy that can prosper in the “broadband economy.” The group has recently released its latest rankings, recognizing the achievements of communities that have built inclusive, prosperous economies on a basis of information and communication technologies.
Nairobi was the only African city to appear on their shortlist of 21 hubs throughout the world for 2015.
Intelligent Community Forum co-founder Robert Bell says: “We see a strong foundation being put into place [in Nairobi]: sensible, pro-growth government policy, a more diversified economy, and an innovation ecosystem of startups, international companies and universities.
“Nairobi certainly has the opportunity to build an exciting future for its citizens, businesses and institutions.”
The Kenyan capital, however, didn’t make it to the next round that will see seven communities around the world contesting in June for the 2015 Intelligent
Community of the Year award — in alphabetical order, the 2015 Top7 Intelligent Communities were Arlington County (U.S.), Columbus, (U.S.), Ipswich (Australia), Mitchell (U.S.), New Taipei City (Taiwan), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Surrey (Canada).
Click through the gallery to find out more about how Nairobi is dealing with the challenges of the broadband economy.
1. Global City – Kenya’s busy capital city, Nairobi, has been crowned the most intelligent city in Africa by the Intelligent Community Forum. Click through for the key reasons experts think the city is particularly well placed to deal with the challenges of the broadband economy.
2. Payment prowess – Nairobi is at the heart of the Kenya’s mobile payments revolution – mobile money is commonly used by residents across the city, as well as by the local county government for fee payments. Safaricom’s M-Pesa service, introduced in 2007, now handles $320 million in payments each month. The amount represents a quarter of Kenya’s GDP. The service has encouraged economic activity by making banking services available to low-income citizens.
3. Incubating innovation – Nairobi has also welcomed incubation centers, such as iHub. The co-working space has become the epicenter of Kenya’s burgeoning tech scene, playing host to technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers seeking to solve global issues through tech. “Many tech (and non tech) multinationals have their regional or continental headquarters here due to the strategic location of the city as well as the talent pool available,” says Josiah Mugambi, iHub’s executive director. “Many now recognize the potential for technology to be used to transform the way business is done.”
4. University approach – The city is home to university innovation centers, such as the Chandaria Business Innovation and Incubation Center at Kenyatta University. The institute was founded by leading Kenyan industrialist, Manilal Chandaria, and seeks to train people to become job creators rather than job-seekers. “We are thinking through the challenges we have, like mortality in children, for example. Its amazing to see young people engaging with these issues and searching for solutions about such global issues,” says George Kosimbei, the director of the institute.
5.Future techies – Experts have also praised the government’s Vision 2030 development plan for having a strong emphasis on the importance of technology and ICT in schools. With 15 million children in Kenya’s education system, it seems this is key if the country will confront the challenges of a connected economy.
6.Intelligent city – In it’s Global Cities report, consulting firm A.T. Kearny, identifies Nairobi as one of two sub-Saharan cities likely to achieve developed status within 20 years. The city is identified as an “important center of regional politics” and the authors say the fact IBM is building a research laboratory illustrates it is a place advancing its global positioning.
7. Growing Fast – And an Economist Intelligence Unit report commissioned by Citigroup in 2012 says Nairobi is expected to be among the world’s 40 fastest-growing cities between 2010 and 2016. The same report ranks the Kenyan capital as the fifth most competitive city in Africa.
8. Underwater web – But it’s not just Nairobi which has impressive connectivity. The East African Marine System (Teams) is a 3,100 mile long fibre-optic undersea cable linking Mombasa with the UAE. The $130 million project to bring high-speed internet to Kenyans, is a joint venture between the government of Kenya and UAE-based operator Etisalat.