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Exploring smart City opportunities for City of George

George Municipality recently partnered with the Africa Business Network of the Finland Chamber of Commerce, the German-South African Chamber of Commerce, the German-Finnish Chamber of Commerce and the Western Cape Economic Development Partnership to host a webinar on 15 March to explore aspects of smart energy, smart building, smart infrastructure and smart mobility.

A smart city uses information and communication technology (ICT) to ensure operational efficiency, share information with the public and provide a better quality of government service and citizen welfare. The main goal of a smart city is to optimise city functions and promote economic growth while also improving the quality of life for citizens by using smart technologies and data analysis. The value lies in how this technology is used rather than simply how much technology is available.

Executive Mayor Alderman Leon Van Wyk formally opened the Webinar hosted on 15 March and the event attended by 80 persons, was moderated by Mr Jens Hauser HOD Competence Centre Sustainable Energy, German -South African Chambers of Commerce and Mr Paul Hoffman, Project Manager, Garden Route Development Partnership.

In his opening comments, the Executive Mayor provided a scene-set of George as an intermediary and magnet city in South Africa utilising its natural attractions and relaxed lifestyle in the Garden Route to position itself as a growing business centre. He sketched the key economic sectors and George’s 40% share of the Garden Route’s economy. Some examples of how George already embraces elements of smart city concepts: it aims to secure 20-30% of its electricity from renewable sources within 3-5 years, the city is already fibre optic cable connected, utilises CCTV cameras for safety and security monitoring for public transport bus service, and a mobile app for service delivery complaints and communication. A significant national insurer operates a large online contact centre, thousands of milk-producing cows have SIM cards monitoring their health, the fire services utilise drone technology and increasing use is being made of smart meters and telemetry in the electricity and water networks. It is hoped that these examples will help in facilitating interest and investment from the Germany and Finland.

Ms Lauren Waring, Director Planning and Development noted that the webinar intended to explore the aspects of smart energy, smart building, smart infrastructure, and smart mobility; and to establish meaningful international learning networks which will be key for the economic development of George and which are aligned to the strategic goals of the George Municipality.

International, national as well as local speakers covered topics which included: An overview on Smart Cities – the cities of the 21st century; Mobility as a Service – The End of Car Ownership? (MaaS Global); Technologies for a smarter built environment (Siemens);  Creating value out of municipal solid waste (Anaergia Africa) as well as case studies on Kone and the City of George.

The George Municipal Spatial Development Framework, 2019 (MSDF)is the spatial representation of the Integrated Development Plan and coordinates and directs growth in the short, medium and long term.  ( and fully embraces the Smart City concept.

Smart City Growth is one of the strategies supporting the spatial planning approach in George and various policies and development guidelines are set to facilitate a compact, legible urban form, including a mix of land uses, a range of housing- and transportation opportunities and walkable neighbourhoods, whilst preserving open space, farmland, natural beauty- and critical environmental areas.  The MSDF policies and guidelines are further intent on strengthening and directing development towards existing communities and fostering distinctive, attractive communities with a strong sense of place.  Processes relating to land development are designed to involve the community in decision-making and to support integrated and considered development.

The process to review the current George MSDF (2019) commenced in 2021 and the use of smart technologies is crucial in collating inputs received from various involved government departments and agencies and interested and affected parties. Data layers, such as the environmental zones (per example the Coastal Management Line, Critical Biodiversity areas, climate change indicators and many others), Transportation Routes and Planning, Human Settlement development, commercial and industrial development, social- and community facility planning, engineering services planning are coordinated via a Geographic Information system(GIS) to aid spatial planning and to advise land use planning decisions.

The George Municipal GIS Public viewer contains some of the information and can be accessed on the Municipal Website.

Dr Kosie Haarhoff, Deputy Director Economic Development noted that the direct beneficiaries of the webinar were public service officials, local government officials and private sector individuals responsible for digital transformation and SMART cities. Four private sector companies presented SMART city solutions to participants:

MaaS Global:
MaaS Global is the world’s first mobility-as-a-service (MaaS) company with a vision and mission to offer a more attractive alternative to a privately owned car. Its Whim mobility app allows for the consumer to plan, book, and pay for their trips in one mobile app.

KONE is a global leader in the elevator and escalator industry, and their focus is to make the world’s cities better and more sustainable places to live.

Anaergia is a global leader in the production of clean energy, fertilizer, and recycled water from virtually any waste stream, offering the widest range of maximizing resource recovery solutions for the municipal, industrial, commercial, and agricultural markets. Anaergia’s integrated solutions create value for its customers in the forms of renewable energy, quality fertilizers, and clean water, while dramatically reducing the cost of waste management.

Siemens is a technology company focused on industry, infrastructure, transport, and healthcare. From more resource-efficient factories, resilient supply chains, and smarter buildings and grids, to cleaner and more comfortable transportation as well as advanced healthcare, they create technology with purpose adding real value for customers.