by GIFT NDOLWANE
JOHANNESBURG – IN a country facing a myriad of challenges from border security, violent crime, cybercrime, traffic congestion and unemployment, Cape Town is testament information and communications technology (ICT) is the panacea for these evils bedeviling South Africa.
Operating on shoestring budgets and while also facing the challenge of mass urbanisation and natural disasters, cities must also quickly and effectively respond to emergencies and incidents in their drive to become “smart cities.”
It is in that regard the City of Cape Town has been hailed as the safest urban area in the country after the adoption of Emergency Policing and Incident Command Programme (EPIC).
A first of its kind in South Africa, it provides an integrated public safety initiative that facilitates co-ordinated multi-disciplinary preparation, mitigation, response, and successful timeous resolution of all public safety incidents in the coastal city.
The programme, an initiative of the City of Cape Town’s Safety and Security Directorate, has been developed using the expertise of leading technology solution provider, EOH.
EPIC uses SAP HANA technology and spatial real-time mapping to integrate the directorate’s six emergency and policing services onto one common platform, facilitating collaboration and co-ordination across the multiple agencies.
Incorporating six primary public safety and security service providers across disaster management, fire and rescue, as well as policing, onto one single integrated technology platform, the programme has revolutionised and dramatically improved the delivery of services in Cape Town’s public
safety environment, according to Andrew Mortimer, EOH’s Public Safety Specialist.
“In today’s challenging public safety environment, the ability to understand and respond to the needs of the public is essential. Greater preparedness, improved awareness and effective resource utilisation all lead to enhanced resilience,” Mortimer said.
“This is the core of a strategy that will transition the city towards providing an environment that is safer and healthier for everyone,” Mortimer explained at the just-concluded at the sidelines of the Huawei Eco-Connect Conference in Midrand, Johannesburg.
He said technology was now helping the city work smarter and stay safer.
“Now, field officers closest to a particular incident always have the correct information and be able to respond efficiently within a few minutes while having access to any information they need,” Mortimer added.
Many cities have since discovered the importance of modern technology when it comes to developing a coordinated incident management system.
Cape Town is among them.
The coastal city battles heavy fires during the hot summer months, which are particularly prevalent in the city’s most impoverished areas.
According to statistics for recent years, from 2011, Cape Town reported 105 fire victims in so-called informal settlements.
Between December 2012, and January 2013, fires destroyed the homes of more than 5 200 people within this timeframe alone.
Last month, two people died and about 160 lost their homes in fires in the city.
Rose Moyo, the technology executive, said municipalities and stakeholders must make the most of ICT to mitigate prevailing disasters.
“We are living in challenging and trying times,” Moyo, the Huawei Wireless Solutions Director, said.
“We need to utilise ICTs to manage these disasters. With the right technology we can build a safer Africa,” Moyo added.
South Africa’s most populous city after Johannesburg, Cape Town is a vast metropolitan area with a population of over 3.8 million people and an annual tourist count of 4,2 million. It is home to some 60 000 businesses.