I was recently selected to work with a team of technology professionals on a Smarter Cities Challenge in the city of Abuja, Nigeria. Smarter Cities are cities that interconnect citizens, government, businesses, and data to efficiently run city operations and meet the service needs of the citizens. Similarly, the Internet of Things is the broader concept of interconnecting any device in any environment so that consumers of that data can benefit from services like situational awareness and data analytics. In a sense, Smarter Cities and The Internet of Things are using technology to bring people together in a more harmonious way.
Before, arriving in Africa, I expected that my assignment would help me better understand how the Internet of Things could help interconnect the people and government of Abuja in a way that would improve the lives of everyday citizens. As an African American on my first trip to Africa, I also expected a unique cultural experience that would more deeply connect me to the history of African Americans. Growing up in American I learned the history of some of my ancestors who were taken from Africa and enslaved for a period that lasted for hundreds of years. Although, I have embraced my ancestral connection to Africa, it has always felt distant and to some degree it has been an intangible Thing. This changed for me the minute I landed in the city of Abuja. One of the first things that stood out to me was the customary greeting I received from so many of the citizens of Abuja. “You are welcome”, the people of Abuja, would consistently express in the most sincere and warm fashion. I truly felt welcomed. This experience continued until our first meeting with city officials and then it really started to hit me. I was in the company of a host of warm-hearted government officials and I began to feel something very unexpected. These were mixed emotions to say the least, ranging from a sense of belonging and pride to a sense of returning to something that I never really knew or understood. There was something else… something that was missing. This was not obvious because it is something that I have never experienced before. I was in a country being led by “Black People” that do not have the cloud of slavery hanging over their head.