Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Infrastructure: the second look

A few months ago, I read or heard somewhere about the Lagos State government planning to install CCTV to manage traffic and crime much in the same way it is done in London and the UK. I don't know whether this is true or not, but if it is then it is a most ambitious undertaking.

In order to get this done, networks very similar to the ATM systems that have spread a rich web across the city need to be in place. This not just networking technology, but also robust electrical systems, strong security, capable professionals and quality equipment. In short, it needs robust infrastructure.

In a recent post I had talked about infrastructure and the government's need to provide it for the sake of the population to be fruitful and prosperous. However, even though I touched on it, I somewhat glossed over the fact that one of the greatest areas robust infrastructure is needed is for the running of government itself.

The Internet is effectively a government invention. The US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) created the underpinnings of modern techno-society as part of research to improve US military superiority. The point is technology investments by the government for itself actually has far reaching benefits that may not be so obvious at the beginning.

Governments do not have unlimited funds, but they are more capable than private concerns to invest in things that do not necessarily have immediate benefits. If Lagos or any other state chooses to invest in these technologies and does it right, the long term benefits to the society would be far-reaching.

Of course, government investment in technology can be misguided, misplaced or misspent - and not just in Nigeria. The UK's national ID card project went way over budget and schedule. The Australian customs underwent a technology project that was arguably a big failure.

Our peculiar challenges with governmental expenditure go without saying though the Lagos state government does have more credibility than others. We need our governments to do the backend things that make the government's own front end work the way it should. We will all be richer for it.



Gbenga said...

This project, if undertaken, sounds like a very interesting one. I'm only concerned with the fact that the average Lagos citizen will argue that the government should do more in trying to provide better power, water, better road networks etc before investing in 'cameras'.
As much as this is an area of development, do you think it should be ranked above the mentioned challenges above?

Dej said...

Hello Gbenga,
I don't think it should be ranked above any of the projects you mentioned. However, if they do do it, and do it well, there stands to be collateral benefits.

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