Category Archives: Konza

Konza and Smart City Solutions, post-COVID

This week, the Konza Technopolis Development Authority (Konza) hosted a webinar, with the theme was using digital technologies in the planning for the future of cities after coronavirus (COVID-19) has passed.  

It was unique in that it featured two of the original main movers behind Konza; Bitange Ndemo, the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication, whose’ brainchild was Konza and Mugo Kibati who was the Director-General of Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Board, and Konza was one of their flagship projects.

The day’s main speaker was Jerome Ochieng, the current Principal Secretary ICT and Innovation who said it was exciting to see a planned city being built from scratch. He said that previous cities had traditionally developed services in silos, but this had led to high costs, waste, and duplication. But he said, going forward with Konza, and using smart cities planning and technology, they would be able to improve the quality and performance of urban living spaces, while reducing energy consumption, service management costs, greenhouse gas emissions. He added that COVID was one of the greatest advertisers of technology – to solve challenges we encounter and that such events will drive how the government will provide services post-COVID.

He highlighted they had been pre-occupied with building the necessary and extensive “basement” work of horizontal infrastructure at Konza- underground utility tunnels (for fibre, power, water and sensors), access roads for pedestrians, BRT etc. These would serve the current and future service needs of the smart city, but that once that was done, other construction projects would take off quickly.

At this stage, Konza, which is 30% done, will also host a permanent building of the national data centre that will be ready by year-end while the city will also host the Kenya Advanced Institute of Science and Technology, according to Konza CEO, John Tanui.

Mugo Kibati said we are now in an era of lower touch, and lower contact for all our interactions and this was happening through technology. Telkom Kenya, the company he now leads, is aiming to position itself to serve these current and future needs as, even after COVID ends, as some changes it has induced, will remain the norm and sustain long after the pandemic. he cited how residential homes now require more bandwidth as more people are working and schooling from home, ordering food and getting medical attention via telemedicine etc. He said that in smart cities, and with more data being generated, that require predictability and planning, telcos will have to move up the value chain to be part of that future.

Bitange Ndemo said that when Kenya did the open data initiative, they had to host a lot of data outside of the country, but that this would not happen any more now that there is a data centre at Konza. He highlighted how there would be opportunities to use data locally to upscale SME’s.

Adam Lane, Deputy CEO Government Affairs at Huawei Kenya, said that Konza will have an intelligent operation centre, comprising network, cloud, platform and then apps, that will provide management for the smart city, like other centres that Huawei has built. He said that on a smart city street, you do not have a pole for lighting, a pole for electricity, a pole for telecommunication etc.

Konza and Smart Cities in Kenya

This week saw a webinar on August 3 hosted by the Konza Technopolis Development Authority on the planning and growth of smart cities.

It featured governments speakers and urban planners led by Jerome Ochieng, the PS for ICT and Innovation and Dr Chris Kiptoo PS, Ministry of Environment and Forestry, along with Eng. John Tanui, the CEO of Konza, Dr Shipra Suri of UN-Habitat, Juliet Rita of the Architectural Association of Kenya and Karen Basiye, Head of Sustainable Business at Safaricom.

Others were John Kabuye of the Kenya Green Building Society, Enosh Onyango of the Nairobi Metropolitan Service (NMS), Ambassador Njambi Kinyungu from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Demola Olajide of UNFPA and Annah Musyimi of Konza – and was moderated by Constant Cap.

Excerpts on the different themes . .

Sustainable Urban Development and Environmental Conservation:

  • Nairobi has had rapid population growth and rapid urbanization – this has led to waste from mushrooming informal settlements mushrooming being discharged into rivers, dysfunctional sewers, industrial waste flowing into rivers with no treatment, overflowing manholes etc. – PS Kiptoo
  • The ecological footprint of cities extends way beyond their administrative boundaries – taking in resources and giving back waste. This has to change and things like urban agriculture are important to foods security and bringing down heat levels – Shipra
  • As part of Safaricom’s plan to be a net-zero company, they committed to plant 5 million. They joined with KFS where in planting trees at South Marmanent where they have empowered communities to do more planting. To date, they have planted half a million and will extend to tree projects to Kieni, Busia, the Mau and Mombasa – Karen
  • Urban settlements must factor in issues of the environment – John Tanui
  • Konza has been designed using a “stitch & band approach” and its developments parallel to Mombasa road have green (forest and wildlife) corridors- Annah
  • NMS identified 153 discharge points and shut them down. Also of 110 illegal dumping areas, 87 have been cleared – Enosh
  • We comingle waste, but when we separate it, we get value – Kabuye

Designing Infrastructure for Sustainable Outcomes:

  • Konza is being developed using smart city principles; each plot has its use (commercial, education, industrial, wildlife conversation), and it is being developed in phases so it grows as its population increases to eventually reach 200,000 people – PS Ochieng.
  • This is the best time now to talk about sustainable cities. The degradation of nature and land-use changes are increasing the risk of pandemics; we are paying the price of unsustainable consumption of natural resources – PS Kiptoo
  • At UN-Habitat we aim to learn from global principles and norms for Kenya to emulate – Njambi
  • Business and residential associations don’t have anyone who looks at sustainability. That has to change – John
  • If a city does not produce better outcomes, we can’t call it smart – Constant Cap
  • UN-Habitat believes people should be the focus of smart cities programs. The goal is not to go high-tech, but “smart” means you are responsive to people, think ahead and take everybody along – Shipra
  • Konza meets the needs of the current generation without compromising the needs of future generations – PS Ochieng
  • We need urban spaces that are responsive to achieve urban dimensions of the SDG’s – Njambi

Smart Solutions for Urban Planning:

  • On Internet of Things (IoT), Safaricom has done smart-metering of aerial water meters with SHOFCO in Kibera (residents buy water with their phones). They are working on IoT for the PSV sector and with UNEP, are monitoring air pollution levels in Nairobi – Karen
  • Konza has been running innovation challenges on COVID and has received 516 submissions from all the 47 counties – Annah
  • Plans are not implemented because many are only prepared as a legal requirement; they are not people-oriented to give solutions. They also require changes in land use and policy, but the country’s system of land ownership makes it hard to have changes – Juliet
  • In the developed world, unless children go back to school, parents can’t go back to work. But Africa has other caregivers in the home – Demola
  • During COVID, people have locked up in spaces that were supposed to be their homes, and this had resulted in social problems – Demola
  • COVID has been the biggest advertisement of the need for well-planned and well-managed urban spaces – Shipra
  • Riparian encroachment by buildings, garages, car washes and eateries come about from not planning well – PS Kiptoo

Urban Planning in Smart Cities Management:

  • Digital streaming and collecting data using IoT will enable Konza to make real-time decisions on transport management, smart environment monitoring, smart metering water & energy – PS Ochieng
  • You can’t manage what you can’t measure. The Kenya Green Building Society has come up with a tool measure performance of buildings, neighbourhoods, and cities in terms of energy, water, waste, human experience and transportation. They have also donated sensors to Mbagathi and KEMRI to measure Co2 emissions and carbon monoxide – Kabuye
  • Planning is still very relevant. We have seen what COVID has done to cities as it is an urban-centric disease – Njambi

Conclusion: The mistakes of Nairobi’s sprawl are not unique, as Sub-Saharan African cities are the fastest-growing urban areas. It is envisaged that the smart planning and design at Konza and the use of IoT to manage the community and environment will make it a sustainable place for a population of 200,000 people. It will accommodate 30,000 residents, 17,000 who are anticipated to work in the complex.

The webinar ended with a call by PS Kiptoo have Konza set the pace for all other cities in the country to “go smart” while PS Ochieng asked more Kenyans to visit Konza to see the ongoing developments and to add to the 10,000 seedlings that will be planted every year there for the Technopolis and community.

Konza, Urban Planning and Smart Cities

Nairobi is home to over 4 million people jostling to earn a living in the hub of Kenya and the Eastern Africa region. It takes many aspects to plan, manage, develop, run and conserve a city like Nairobi sustainably, but the Covid-19 Pandemic has evolved to be an urban crisis, forcing city managers and investors to reconsider their plans and roles.

Covid has also made some people reconsider what urban spaces mean to them, their families and their careers. On one webinar in May 2020, a partner at McKinsey said that Covid has brought “work from home” forward by ten years, and many residents are making decisions whether living in cities is the best use of their time and economic resources. Is it time to leave Nairobi?

The Konza Technopolis Development Authority plans a city that the traverses three counties of Machakos, Kajiado and Makueni, with a 10 kilometer buffer-zone around it that encompasses 68,000 acres.  Today’s newspaper also mentions the plan by the Nairobi Metropolitan Services to rehabilitate and run a 75-kilometre railway line between Konza and Nairobi as one of the routes in their commuter rehabilitation project that will also improve access to the Konza Technopolis.

As Kenya needs even more planned cities, join a webinar with managers and experts on the future of smart cities, and the economic use of resources. Through this webinar, Konza aims to bring together key stakeholders in the urban management, design, planning, the environment, and policy to discuss these post-Covid issues. RSVP here.  

Kenya multi-media technology park

A breakfast meeting was held today to discuss plans for a multi-media technology park to be located in Athi River / Kitengela area. This is one of the key milestones in the ICT policy, which was approved by the Cabinet, but is yet to be passed by Parliament.

The multi media park is to be modelled along the likes of Egypt’s Smart Village and Ebene in Mauritius. Microsoft has already signed up to be the first tenant of the park and has offered to assist in its design.

The first park may be hosted by the Export Processing Zone Authority on their 1,000 acres in Athi River. In addition to tax benefits, the zone already offers various benefits including, cheap rents, easily obtainable immigration permits for companies (guaranteed for general manger, technical manager, financial manager and 2 directors), connected with fibre optic cable, and guaranteed electricity supply from KPLC.

Athi River/Kitengela is close to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport and over 20,000 new housing units are being built in the area. Some major problems facing the area are water shortages and traffic congestion. But the traffic problems could be alleviated by the (soon) construction of dual carriageway road from Machakos to Nairobi and removal of the mlolongo weighbridge to a location further down Mombasa road.

Government
The Minister (Mutahi Kagwe) and permanent secretary (Bitange Ndemo) of Information & Communications are a dynamic pair whos’ vision is to make Kenya be known as an ICT destination, not just for tourism, politics, coffee, and tea. The two are very passionate about ICT and how the country and people can use ICT to achieve development and business goals.

Minister Kagwe also said

  • The government would set up an ICT board to market the country as an ICT destination (similar to the Kenya tourism board).
  • Confirmed the country would go it alone (& look for support elsewhere) on the EASSy submarine cable project if Kenyan demands for time, quality, and cost are not met. (SA is to blame for most delays)
  • Said the recent Kengen fundraising demonstrates the country has enough capital to meet its development needs, if channelled properly.
  • Called on media to hype business in Kenya, not endless political stories.
  • Called on the business community to be more assertive in challenging the government when they feel aggrieved.
  • Is convinced Kenya can put up a better park than Egypt
    and invited the private sector to also set up their own parks with the government giving incentives.
  • Said ICT products would be zero-rated in the upcoming budget in June 2006

Other bits

  • Rural Internet: Telkom Kenya will begin rolling out wireless CDMA this month with affordable units costing about $30. Also, the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) is willing to waive some licensing charges for companies that want to start rural ISP’s.
  • Business incubators: Incubator policy is expected to be passed by Parliament by the end of 2006.
  • Training: The Kenya College of Communications & Technology (KCCT) has been transferred from Telkom Kenya to the CCK to better serve the country’s ICT training needs.