Kigali, Kampala Approved for Phase 3 ASToN Project

HICGI News Agency- updated 0757 GMT on Tuesday 30th Nov 2021

Kampala and Kigali have been approved for phase 3 out out of 11 cities pending in for ASToN Project in Africa according to sources to HICGI News Agency.

The ASToN brings together 11 African cities in the Africa Smart Towns Network (ASToN).
These African cities include;

  1. Algiers (Algeria)
  2. Bamako (Mali)
  3. Bizerte (Tunisia)
  4. Kampala (Uganda)
  5. Kigali (Rwanda)
  6. Kumasi (Ghana)
  7. Lagos (Nigeria)
  8. Maputo-Matola (Mozambique)
  9. Niamey (Niger)
  10. Nouakchott (Mauritania)
  11. Sèmè-Kpodji (Benin)  

“We are getting back to you regarding your access to Phase 3 of our ASToN journey.  
First and foremost, congratulations for making it! We are very glad that you have passed the Phase 3 Committee..” according to a communication seen from ASToN Secretariat to Kampala Capital City Authority.

Engagements have started between Kampala and ASToN Secretariat for the implantation of phase 3.

The City of Kigali (CoK) is the capital city of Rwanda with a status of a decentralized entity, specialized administration, legal personality, administrative and financial autonomy. Its organization and functioning is determined by the newly adopted law nº 22/2019 of 29/07/2019 especially in its Art 7 which states that the city of Kigali ” shall Monitor and ensure implementation of national policies1”.

ASToN is a flagship programme financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), managed by the French National Urban Renovation Agency (ANRU) and inspired by URBACT knowledge and tools.
ASToN is a network of 11 African cities using digital tools to overcome local and global challenges. Our hope is that by creating a cohort of cities and collaborating in this way, ASToN cities can become leading digital actors, faster, and in a way that’s appropriate and sustainable for each own’s local context. -PHOTO / COURTESY LAUNCH IN KAMPALA 2019

In order to implement its mandate; the City has an Integrated Development strategy (IDS 20182024 and a Master Plan (KMP2050) that sets forward the guiding agenda of Kigali we want by 2024 and beyond; “Urban excellent in African cities”.

Through its innovative resource mobilization approach (partnership in development) to deliver on its activities and targets aligned to National Strategy for transformation and prosperity (NST-1 2018-2024) and sustainable development goals; together with the ASToN, Kigali designed a digital divide project to engage young people (18 to 35 years) in programs that use ICT to promote civic participation and social connectedness as a pathway to provide enhanced services to the citizens through ICT.

Kigali-ASToN project Background

The Kigali-ASToN two years project 2019-2022, is a one network of 11 African cities learning, experimenting and shifting together towards a more digital-enabled (digital maturity), inclusive and sustainable future. The project is founded on the philosophy and principles of mutuality, learning from other cities and exchange with each other in a highly collaborative and participatory manner, openness and experimental mind set while building relationships, digitalization and attaining the smart city.

The two years’ project from September 2019 to march 2022 was designed by ASToN to be executed in three phases. The phase 1 from September 2019 to May 2020 (explore phase) concerns digital inclusion needs assessment. This was done by gathering information for the baseline study, framing the Kigali problem, identifying, mapping and engaging Kigali-ASToN local group, mapping internal and external stakeholders and connecting with other cities.

Phase two and three (engaging and experimenting) kick started from July 2020 and will end in March 2022. During the first phase of exploring (September 2019-May 2020) and the second and third current phases of engaging and experimenting (July 2020-March 2022), the project activities implementation is behind the scheduled execution time.

The preliminary research to frame the Kigali problem and to prepare a detailed action plan has not been finished. Mapping internal and external stakeholders is slowly done. Engaging and experimenting phases has not been started.

It is against this backdrop that the Kigali City is also partnering with ASToN to recruit an expert consultant to facilitate the city by drawing catch up plans to approve the Kigali problem, detailed action plan, mapping of stakeholders and facilitate second and third phases of engaging and experimenting.


The overall objective of this assignment is to provide technical support to Kigali- ASToN-digital divide project core and local group by effectively contributing to the different deliverables (finalizing preliminary research, action plan, facilitating experimentation and evaluation of the project during phase out) and facilitating different workshops required to finalize the deliverables meetings. Scope of the assignment

1. Inception plan detailing assignment approach and work plan

2. Finalization of the preliminary research report

3. Drafting of the action plan with the relevant stakeholders

4. Facilitating experimentation phase

5. Feedback and advice of the data collection process

6. Facilitating engagement of stakeholders

Within the scope of the Assignment; the Individual Consultant (IC) is expected to provide consultancy services for the below listed activities;

1. Help to finalize the Preliminary research document and draft the Action Plan,

2. Facilitate meetings and workshops during the preliminary research approval process, action plan development and stakeholder engagement to ensure that all Kigali large IT projects, including the designing and planning are not forgotten,

3. Facilitate the experimentation phase of the project.

4. Facilitate the methodology and approach of data collection to analyze business requirements of the youth (18-35 years) during the development of the action plan in order to develop solutions for IT Needs and scale up ICT usage appropriately.

5. Facilitate project monitoring and evaluation during the phase out of the project

Duration and Activities after contract sign off.

Activities Estimated number of days to be invested by consultant Indicative deadlines (Post review) Review and approval by Kigali core group in consultation with ASToN Inception plan detailing assignment approach and work plan 1-2 End of March

* Fine-tune preliminary research and present it to management for approval 2-3 Mid-April

* Facilitation of data collection to analyze ICT business requirements of the youth between 18 and 35 years old. 3-6 Mid- May

* Local action plan co designed with the local stakeholders plus outline of experimentation 6-10 Mid-July

* Facilitate the city of Kigali towards and during the experimentation phase (prepare the experimentation checklist) 5-9 Aug-Nov

* Facilitate Kigali in the project monitoring, evaluation and network activities 8-10 April 2021-March 2022

* Total days 25-40 N/A N/A Institutional Arrangements. Kigali will provide all relevant background documentation. It is also required to provide office facility for the work of the IC and transport when traveling to places where relevant meetings, workshops and discussions take place.

How to unlock the innovation potential in cities using data?

Lessons from the European Urban Initiative, the EU tool to sponsor the experimentation of the most innovative urban ideas

This article is part of a series following an In-depth talk we had with the ASToN cities on the topic of using data to support policy and decision making. You can read the other article from this series here.

Cities are natural testbeds for bold and new solutions to societal challenges. While navigating in the middle of multiple transitions (climate, demographic, social, technological and economic), they concentrate the main challenges but also the assets and resources needed to find new ways to improve wellbeing for people.

Over the last years, the potential for innovation in cities has dramatically increased thanks to the growing willingness of local stakeholders to join forces with public authorities to find new radical solutions, but also to the new technologies that are creating new opportunities for horizontal collaboration and co-creation. However, this potential remain often unexploited due to the reluctance of traditional financial mechanisms to share the level of risk implicit in any new idea.

Moreover, for many years, cities and public officials have not always been in the “driver seat” to define smart cities strategies. Often, those have been dictated by private tech companies, eager to sell their digital products to urban authorities. The focus has been exclusively on technologies and less on citizens and their problems. Cities have been spending large amounts of money to buy digital infrastructures, to found themselves locked in closed environments, highly dependent on assistance by the same tech companies and therefore unable to fully exploit the potential of new smart solutions.

However, when given the opportunity, cities are willing to embrace a much more open approach to technological innovation. In recent years, policy makers and officials are trying to retake the lead, exploring the opportunities offered by new “decentralised” technologies, testing multidisciplinary applications while reinforcing the level of integration and interoperability. All this by making smart cities much more people-centred, collaborative and inclusive. One of the most vocal European cities in advocating for such a radical shift is Barcelona.

Data: oil for different city engines

The key concept underpinning this new smart city paradigm is diversity. Diversity in terms of policy fields where technological and digital innovations can be applied, and consequently diversity of operational tools and applications that cities can use to make the most of the new opportunities offered by new digital solutions.

When observing the work done so far by the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative , it appears clear that, while policy areas such as mobility and land management remain main targets to deploy innovative digital applications, cities are experimenting digital solutions in a wider range of urban policies. Below just some examples illustrating this important shift:

· SocialBarcelona is testing digital solutions to provide poor families with a Guaranteed Minimum Income by constantly triangulating statistical data (e.g. revenues, fiscal information) with anthropological data. Getafe (Spain) is deploying Artificial Intelligence to identify hidden energy poverty (people struggling with energy consumption unaware of the existing support), while Heerlen (Netherlands) is deploying a collaborative platform with Block chain technology to reward volunteering in the city

· Economic: Rotterdam is using data collection and mining to anticipate new skills requested by emerging economic sectors to adapt vocational curricula, Eindhoven is working with private actors to set up a digital passport able to certify informal skills while Bilbao is trying to help local industrial consultancies in shifting towards the new era of manufacturing 4.0

· Air qualityHelsinki and Marseille are currently testing, among other solutions, new wearable devices for citizens to collect data on air pollution. By doing so they are crowdsourcing the collection of data to be visualized in online platform, while raising awareness and opening up data for collective decisions and new applications helping citizens taking informed decisions

· Circular economyHeraklion is deploying smart bins and captors to track food waste streams (mainly from touristic activities) and valorise leftovers. Ljubljana has developed a new digital application helping citizens to identify invasive vegetal alien species harming the local natural ecosystems

Diversifying policy fields of application of digital solutions goes hand in hand with a diversification of digital tools that policy makers and officials use on a daily basis. Those include:

· Decision making tools for policy makers to take informed decisions (data visualization, dashboards)

· Collaborative platform for co-design with local stakeholders and citizens (gaming, augmented reality, online surveys)

· New (wearable) devices for citizens for crowdsourced data collection

· New communication tools for awareness campaigns and participative decision making (data visualisation, infographics, participative budgeting)

· Artificial intelligence for automation of public services

· Data collection and visualization to inform monitoring and evaluation of public policies

This last point is so important for UIA that a study was done in 2020 in this regard [link]. A key chapter of the report is devoted to the importance of data, with several lessons learnt, all backed by concrete examples from cities.

Barriers and obstacles

While presenting these ideas during the In Depth Talk, the cities stressed the difficulties they face on a daily basis. Below some highlights from this very rich exchange:

· Especially in countries that are trying to catch up the digital gap, there is a risk of an over-centralization by national governments in deploying digital infrastructures (and managing the flow of data). This scenario, while it might present benefit in terms of economy of scale clashes with an open and collaborative paradigm for smart cities. And it can reduce the degree of interoperability essential for this new paradigm. Networks and coalitions of cities such as ASToN need to be vocal in advocating for the right balance between centralized and decentralized approaches while small scale pilots led by cities can be extremely helpful to show the potential for a diversified deployment of urban digital solutions

· Another key barrier is represented by the lack, within local administrations, of the right skills needed to support such a radical transition. Cities need to move away from the over-reliance on the assistance provided by tech companies and invest on the human capital needed to collect, analyse and make (public) sense of data. This implies dedicating resources to attract talents, changing recruitment processes, recognizing informal/lateral skills but also investing in capacity building for public officials. Here again the ASToN experience can be particularly helpful in terms of peer learning.

· Finally yet importantly, several cities expressed their concerns regarding data ownership and privacy. This is an essential aspect. Even more considering that data extraction and dispossession are key mechanism for a new emerging form of capitalism dominated by big tech companies. One way of addressing this issue is to enforce new regulations increasing the capacities of individuals to be informed and eventually to opt in/out. Cities have a very important role in educating citizens on the value and risks attached to the data they generate while also ensuring, as much as possible, public ownership of infrastructures and data. This is the focus of an experimentation currently ongoing in Rennes.

In the years to come, the ongoing digital revolution will be even more pervasive, entering even more in the daily life of citizens. Cities will play a key role to ensure that new technologies will be open, inclusive and serving public interest.

More about Urban Innovative Actions:

The European Commission decided in 2015 to launch a new Initiative (Urban Innovative Actions — UIA) with the ambitious objectives to support the experimentation of the most innovative ideas addressing urban challenges while ensuring that the knowledge generated by frontrunners cities could be a source of inspiration for urban actors in Europe and beyond. Today UIA is investing more than 350ml € in 86 innovative urban projects in 19 Countries.

Differently from other European initiatives, UIA does not have an exclusive focus on technological innovation. By defining innovation as ‘new product, services and processes that have never been tested before in Europe and able to address specific societal urban challenges”, UIA leaves the door open for technological innovation without making it compulsory. Such a flexibility in defining innovation has been greatly appreciated by European cities as demonstrated by the 1200 proposals received over 5 Calls for Proposals.

Technological innovation remains central in all proposals as enabler for new policies to address societal challenges. At the same time this flexibility is helping cities to radically change the concept of smart city.

ASToN is a flagship programme financed by the French Development Agency (AFD), managed by the French National Urban Renovation Agency (ANRU) and inspired by URBACT knowledge and tools.

11 African cities using digital tools to overcome local and global challenges. Our hope is that by creating a cohort of cities and collaborating in this way, ASToN cities can become leading digital actors, faster, and in a way that’s appropriate and sustainable for each own’s local context.

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