A successful campaign aimed at bringing to life the transformative capabilities of data has revealed the combination of the power of technology and fashion and turned a concept into a dialogue.
A thought-provoking project under the bannered theme “Fabric” undertaken by Siemens in August demonstrates how data can transform African cities.
Bringing together three iconic African fashion designers, the technology giant used data from Lagos, Nairobi and Johannesburg and wove it into unique fabrics and one-of-kind outfits to tell a story about each city.
“This is how we thought to express the aspect of digitalisation. As urbanisation rapidly increases, cities need to start preparing for the effects it will have on infrastructure, energy, water and transportation systems,” says Siemens South Africa group communications head Keshin Govender.
The brand campaign also aims to position Siemens in the fields of digital enterprise and digital transformation.
The end result is 12 extraordinary outfits created from the vast amounts of data extracted from the cities, highlighting how data combined with smart technology will ensure that future cities are more connected, efficient and powered.
The intricate garments by Kenya’s John Kaveke, Nigeria’s Zizi Cardow and South Africa’s Palesa Mokubung translate and visualise a variety of city patterns from power grids and shipping tonnes to population densities, transport and areas of connectivity.
“The extrapolated data gives greater insight on what makes each city tick, helping us make calculated decisions and improve service delivery to the people and showing how digitalisation can transform them,” Govender says.
“Whenever we have a conversation in Africa about digitalisation, it is usually viewed as a western world construct. We decided to view digitalisation through an African lens.”
“This became the catalyst for the conversation,” he adds, noting that there is a need to connect with Africans in a meaningful way that showcases, by way of the first data-driven fashion show, the societal impact of digitalisation.
“The idea was more than just the fashion show. It was more than just the fabric. It was the idea of how to visualise an ecosystem of a city in a way that delivers tangible, relevant and relatable conversations with society and with customers,” Govender tells Engineering News.
The project highlights the need for access to reliable and recent data to make reliable urban planning decisions, particularly in sectors not yet explored, such as manufacturing, energy and transportation.
“This is a remarkable opportunity for Africa which will result in the establishment of new industries and new jobs, while exponentially increasing skills development and contributing to gross domestic product (GDP),” he explains.
The Fabric project also resulted in the formation of the “Alex series” in Alexandra township.
Siemens is mapping out the township environment through data, delving into the existing data points driving the township economy, including taxi routes and economic hubs, to create uniquely African township visuals on a product.
Siemens has partnered with an enterprise development initiative in Alexandra, which will help manufacture and brand corporate items, such as shopping bags, wallets or satchels, with images of Alexandra.
The company, in an effort to create a market for the still-to-be-decided items and provide the manufacturer seed capital, will order the first 1 000 units towards the end of October.
The Big City Data Points
Siemens created a blueprint of Gillooly’s interchange, in Johannesburg, where 200 000 vehicles pass through each day on 12 possible routes, with the data pointing to the significant pressure on the road’s infrastructure and the possibility that the southern hemisphere’s largest interchange may not be able to accommodate the escalating number of vehicles by 2030.
A Newtown, Johannesburg, piece details the intricate data of Johannesburg’s Park Station, with 1 700 coaches in service and some 340 000 journeys a day, hampered by the challenges of old and dilapidated railway infrastructure, long queues, overcrowding and unreliable trains.
The city’s water supply is also mapped out, showing a deficit with Johannesburg Water supplying only 1 515 megalitres of potable drinking water a day, despite consumption being 1 610 megalitres of water a day.
Sandton’s central business district also features on the garments, revealing substantial infrastructure pressure in the future, owing to growing high traffic volumes and the construction of new businesses.
Sandton hosts over 10 000 businesses and accounts for 50% of all commercial property construction in South Africa. Over 700 000 people travel daily into Sandton during morning traffic – 46% are in passenger cars.
Meanwhile, the electricity shortage in Ilupeju, a high-density low-cost housing residential suburb in Lagos, Nigeria, is depicted on the fabric.
Lagos State has a power supply of 2 000 MW, falling significantly short of the current 10 000 MW demand. Only 40% of households have access to electricity and only 57.7% of Nigeria’s population had access to electricity in 2014.
The data sets reveal further that there is limited available data on Ilupeju’s piped water and Internet access, water distribution and gas lines, cellphone towers, trees, income range, formal and informal transport routes – all necessary for urban planning.
The data points for Nigeria’s Lagos Island, the central banking and business hub, with the highest GDP on the continent, shows limited access to the island and prolonged traffic jams with journeys of four to ten hours reported, despite three large bridges and a ferry route connecting it to the mainland.
The population of Lagos as of 2017 stood at 22-million, 70% of whom live in slum communities and, according to data, there is already a huge gap between the demand and supply of water. The State provides 210-million gallons of water a day, but the demand stands at a more than double that at 540-million gallons a day.
The third data point collection in Nigeria is that of Lagos port, which, along with Apapa, hosts over 2 500 ships and handles 74-million tonnes of cargo a year.
This port is crucial to Nigeria because it contributes significantly to the economy through trade; however, congestion is described as a nightmare, owing to an increase in trucks transporting freight to and from the port.
In the heart of Nairobi, in Kenya, lies the Central Bus Station, where 4 000 buses, serving a daytime population of 4.1-million people, and thousands of minibus taxis and private vehicles, pass through daily.
The data reveals the poor road infrastructure, the main mode of public transport in Nairobi, with heavy traffic congestion leading to increasing air pollution, increased fuel consumption, human stress and economic loss.
Another fabric details the congestion of Nairobi’s 100-year-old industrial area, as well as the city’s power grid and water use.
The industrial precinct is situated off Nairobi’s busiest artery, Jogoo road, which is used by 87 500 cars a day, and supports a densely populated informal settlement on its outer perimeter inhabited by some 32 000 people.
The bulk of Nairobi’s 482 940 m3/day water supply comes from three dams and a spring, far short of the current estimated water demand of 650 000 m3/day.
Meanwhile, the city generates 62% of its electricity from renewables, mostly hydro and some geothermal power.
The country’s installed capacity as at June 2016 was 2 341 MW against a demand of only 1 586 MW.