PHOTO: Tony Mwai IBM CGM and Dr. Bitange Ndemo PS ministry if information showing the white paper at the event.
PHOTO: Tony Mwai IBM CGM and Dr. Bitange Ndemo PS ministry if information showing the white paper at the event.

The global technology giant IBM on Wednesday, March 7th 2012 launched the first White Paper of its kind in Africa on how Nairobi can address its infrastructure and population challenges to transform into a developed and smarter city.

The report, which is a product of IBM research includes the views of leaders and experts from the public and private sectors, World Bank, UN-Habitat and civil society organizations and highlights specific action lines in the transport, energy and public safety that can help Nairobi transform into a smarter city. It is based on a roundtable discussion which took place late 2011.

A similar project has been successfully implemented in Rio de Janeiro with great lessons learnt. This is according to Tony Mwai who is Country General Manager for IBM East Africa. He however cautions that this model cannot be replicated here due to the unique problems of each city. Such efforts would go a long way in preventing and dealing with disasters such as the Sinai fire which suffered a lack of timely emergency response and access route to the scene. Mwai poses the question, “Can we use mobile phone signals to determine traffic and population density?”

Tony Mwai IBM CGM and Dr. Bitange Ndemo PS ministry Of information presenting the white paper at the event.


  • There are 11,000 high voltage fluctuations and power outages in Nairobi every month – (KenGen).

Development of alternative energy sources, smart metering and incentive schemes to change energy consumption are possible solutions to Nairobi’s energy problems, the report states.According to the PS for energy, the quality of power is hindered by old transmission designs. This must change. He cites a good example in which parts of the coast are getting new high voltage power lines costing 9 billion shillings to improve quality of power.


  • Nairobi is the fourth most painful commute in the world – (IBM survey).
  • Traffic jams in Nairobi cost the economy over Sh50 million (over $600,000) a day in lost productivity, fuel consumption and pollution – (Nairobi City Council).

The report lists a number of possible technological solutions to consider including micro chips embedded in driving licenses to record a driver’s road history, priced road usage schemes and using mobile phone signal density to pinpoint and predict traffic jams.

“Taxis do not make money lying idle, they make money when they move”, said the PS for transport in his speech. He also reiterated that government would not renege on its pledge to phase out small transport vehicles and replace them with larger ones. Traffic cams shall soon be used to record traffic offences.

Cost of the Project

While the PS for Information was not in a position to provide a figure at the time, it was indicated that the IBM grant will be in form of executives imported from IBM to liaise with government in the successful implementation of the project.

Konza City and Tatu City are the new small-scale smart cities in Africa. PS Ndemo hopes that these cities will provide lessons and case studies to inform Nairobi’s future development.

Here are the links for the IBM white paper “A Vision of A Smarter City: How Nairobi Can Lead the Way into a Prosperous and Sustainable Future” download and here for more information on IBM smarter cities.


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