Team Lagos (Nigeria): The Final Countdown

Well, here I go again. Five years after participating in one of the first Corporate Service Corps teams (Tanzania 1 — 2008), I’m preparing for another assignment in Africa.

I’m part of a team of five IBMers going to Lagos, Nigeria, as part of the Smarter Cities Challenge (#smartercities Challenge). We leave next Wednesday, May 22.

While we’re still working through the specifics, the general idea of our mission is to work with the local government on a Smarter Transportation project. Lagos is the second largest city in Africa (only behind Nairobi) and growing at astronomical rates. It’s the second fastest growing city in Africa and the seventh fastest growing city in the world.  They have nearly 20 million people in Lagos, and as you can imagine, traffic is a major challenge. People typically spend 2-3 hours commuting from one side of the city to another. Same goes for moving goods in and around Lagos. Here’s a look at what traffic in Lagos can look like:

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But the city is looking at improving its transportation system with the use of trains, buses, and ferries…..and technology.

So, I’ve spent the past few months getting to know my team — a talented and diverse group — as we hope to hit the ground running in Lagos. We’ve had some short introductions to a few of the government officials in Lagos, and we’ll be spending our first few days meeting with them and better understanding the challenges there. In our initial discussion with one of the officials there, he said “We have a lot of data but need to figure out what to do with it. We want a more predictive transportation system.” IBM is the right company to help with a challenge of this magnitude, we’ve done it before.

I’ll be sharing regular updates here, and my teammates will also be contributing. Please check back for updates, photos, and videos from our experience in Lagos.

People keep telling me that Nigeria will be far different from my experience in Tanzania five years ago. But my personal ambitions are the same. I hope to help the local citizens improve their quality of life, while getting to learn more about their people and culture. If we can even make small improvements, and help the government come up with long term solutions, then it will be a success.

I’m looking forward to meeting my teammates in person next week. This should be another life-changing experience.

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