Smart Sustainable Cities White Paper – Case Study [01]

Javier Torner

UN-Habitat

Urban planning and innovation to capture the potential of new technologies and processes (Rwanda)

UN-Habitat engagement in urban planning and technology
As the United Nations leading agency in the areas of urban development and sustainable urbanization, UN-Habitat supports national and local governments in the development of policies, strategies and projects that foster more compact, better connected, integrated, socially inclusive and resilient to climate change cities.
The adequate use of technology for urban planning and management has become a critical tool to achieve integration of stakeholders, participation and more efficient urban management and growth. UN-Habitat is therefore supporting governments that aim at leveraging the benefits of technology to enhance the quality of life of residents. One of these areas of support is the development of Smart City Plans to set the vision, the strategies and the concrete initiatives that link technology and innovation with urban development.

Context in Rwanda
In 2017 UN-Habitat developed, in collaboration with the Government of Rwanda, the Smart City Rwanda Master Plan to promote the integration of technology in sustainable urban development in the country.
The transformation of Rwanda from an agrarian economy into a knowledge-based society is taking place in the context of two of the biggest drivers of change in the 21st century — rapid urbanization and the increased application of digital technologies in all sectors of society. To meet these challenges, and take advantage of the opportunities of the digital world, Rwandan society is being transformed. Citizens are increasingly moving to towns and cities, acquiring new skills and demanding better services. Cities are growing and require better planning, governance and new financing.
Smart cities, in which leaders and citizens use data, information and knowledge to ensure a co-created resilient and sustainable future, can play a large role in the transformation of Rwanda. By ensuring inclusive data-led management and planning, efficient community-based infrastructure and services and localized and shared innovation, cities can be drivers for economic development and sustainable development.
This Smart City Masterplan is intended as a guide to help Mayors and urban managers go through the process of developing their own smart city strategies and masterplans, as well as providing a strategy for the government to promote the development of smart cities in Rwanda on a national level.

Intervention
This Smart City Masterplan provides a framework to guide Rwandan cities and towns in their efforts to harness ICTs and to provide a higher quality of life to their citizens, businesses and visitors. The project lays out a vision for cities of the future that embed technology and data across city functions to make them more efficient, competitive and innovative.
The Smart City Masterplan is intended as a guide to help Mayors and urban managers go through the process of developing their own smart city strategies and masterplans, as well as providing a strategy for the government to promote the development of smart cities in Rwanda on a national level.

Progress and results

The Smart City Rwanda Masterplan has initiated the process for the implementation of concrete initiatives linked to sustainable urban development and technology. The masterplan has advanced in the implementation of the National Urbanization Policy and the ICT Policy of the Rwandan Government through concrete projects. The process has mobilized the different actors of the government, private sector and civil society to agree on a vision and concrete interventions on how smart cities can support sustainable urban development.

Concrete initiatives:

The 27 initiatives of the project are divided in three pillars: Smart governance and planning, smart and efficient services and utilities and localized innovation for social and economic development. Some examples of these initiatives are:

  • Integrated, GIS-based urban management platforms
  • Cross-ministry financial and project management platform
  • Multi-stakeholder safer cities programme
  • Dynamic data-supported urban master planning
  • Enabling environments for urban technology testing
  • Accessible internet zones in strategic and residential areas
  • Explore smart micro grids based on the prosumer model
  • Smart, data-led ‘door-to door’ mobility solutions
  • Sensor-based environmental data
  • National fund to encourage challenge-based innovation

Next steps
The recommendations found in this document, along with the Smart Africa Alliance’s Smart and Sustainable Blueprint for Africa, can be used to provide guidance for future national and local smart city masterplans throughout the continent. This citizen based approach to innovation and technology sets people at the center of urban development, using technology as a means to improve quality of life for the population. The initiative has the potential to be scaled in many different African and Asian countries that have shown interest in the framework, with ongoing discussion in Nigeria and Myanmar.

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