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Implications of spatial and physical structures for ict as a tool of urban management and development in cameroon
 

Implications of spatial and physical structures for ict as a tool of urban management and development in cameroon

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    Implications of spatial and physical structures for ict as a tool of urban management and development in cameroon Implications of spatial and physical structures for ict as a tool of urban management and development in cameroon Document Transcript

    • Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351 Contents lists available at SciVerse ScienceDirect Habitat International journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/habitatintImplications of spatial and physical structures for ICT as a tool of urbanmanagement and development in CameroonAmbe J. Njoh*University of South Florida, Government & International Affairs, St. Petersburg, Fl 33701, United States a b s t r a c tKeywords: Information and communication technologies (ICTs) hold enormous promise for development efforts inCameroon developing countries. However, the potential of ICTs remains untapped for reasons that are largelyCommunication technology unknown in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). This region has the lowest level of ICT penetration in the world.Colonial urban planningInformation technologies The need to understand impediments to ICT performance are therefore most urgent in this region. ThisSpatial segregation paper seeks to address this need by identifying factors that inhibit the functionality of ICT as a tool forSpatial structures improving urban management. It analyzes two cities in the region, namely Douala and Yaounde, respectively Cameroon’s economic/cultural and politico-administrative capitals. The following three factors are shown to impede the functioning of ICT devices, hence urban management in these cities: colonial racial segregation policies, the colonial legacy of land use compartmentalization and the lack of unambiguous physical addresses for structures in the built environment. It is suggested that concerned authorities institute the following measures. 1] Establish an unambiguous addressing system reposed on the municipal governance structure and the country’s vehicle matriculation taxonomy. 2] Actively promote ICT as an element of national development. Finally, it presents some examples of efforts to improve ICT penetration and functionality from Senegal and South Africa. Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.Introduction questions centre, or ought to centre, on the barriers and opportu- nities for ICT. This paper seeks to address these questions. It attains Information and communication technologies (ICTs), including this objective by identifying and discussing barriers to ICTs inall devices and facilities that enable the collection, processing, Cameroon’s two largest cities, Douala, the economic/culturalstorage and dissemination of information, are growing increasingly capital, and Yaounde, the national capital. Initially, it reviews thepopular in the development arena. Proponents of ICT for develop- concept of ICT and its relevance to urban management.ment contend that development efforts in developing countriesstand to significantly benefit from investments in ICT (see e.g., ICT, development and urban managementGester & Zimmermann, 2003; Greyling & Smith, 2008; UN, 2002;UNESCO, 2004). With respect to urban management, ICTs can Broadly defined, information and communication technologiesboost efficiency gains in urban public service delivery and facilitate (ICTs) comprise all devices, systems and facilities that can beefforts to promote democratic interaction between municipal deployed to collect, process, store and diffuse information. Thus,governments and urban residents (Nijkamp & Cohen-Blankshtain, ICTs include not only technologically sophisticated tools such as2009). computers and the Internet, but also oft-ignored conventional However, it is important to note that ICT as a tool of urban communication media and facilities such as radios, television, fixedmanagement is still at a rudimentary stage of development. Thus, telephones, roads and streets. Also included under the rubric of ICTsmany questions remain unanswered. In Europe and other devel- for the purpose of this discussion are the support systems neces-oped regions, these questions revolve around the potential and sary for operating ICT devices such as electricity. Seen from thislimitation of ICT, and its effect on the urban environment (see e.g., perspective, ICTs are intuitively appealing as viable and effectiveNijkamp & Cohen-Blankshtain, 2009). In developing countries, the tools of socio-economic development. A number of empirical studies have validated the theoretical link between ICT and economic development. One such study is * Tel.: þ1 813 974 7459; fax: þ1 813 974 4808. alluded to by Takaya (2007). Based on data from the Organization E-mail address: njoh@mail.usf.edu. for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, the0197-3975/$ e see front matter Ó 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.doi:10.1016/j.habitatint.2011.06.006
    • 344 A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351study uncovered evidence suggesting that investment in ICT fences that are designed to separate different districts withincontributed positively to gross domestic product (GDP) from 1990 human settlements. This latter set of barriers also include structuresto 1995 and from 1995 to 2003. Attempts to empirically validate designed to permanently or temporarily close off roads, streets,this connection are rare in developing countries. One reason for this highways and other arteries of vehicular or human circulation.has to do with the fact that the levels of ICT activities, almost all ofwhich are of the demand side variant, remain relatively low. The Physical and spatial structure of Douala and Yaoundemuch heralded rise in the use of mobile ICTs such as cellularphones, for instance, has very little impact on economic develop- Cameroon’s geography, history and development profile, makesment in developing countries, where they are mainly used for social it ideally suitable as a case study in the feasibility of ICT as a tool ofcommunication purposes or as a status symbol (Musa, Meso, & urban management and development. The country was colonizedMbarika, 2005). At any rate, it is necessary to note that ICT by three dominant European colonial powers, viz., Germanyservices in these countries are limited and of poor quality. What (1884e1919), and France and Britain (1919e1960). Its major citiesfactors account for this phenomenon? contain conspicuous traces of this triple colonial heritage. Signifi- To accurately respond to this question one must first understand cant portions of the country lie along the (Atlantic) coast, whilethe nature of information and communication technology as others are in the hinterland (see Fig. 1). Table 1 shows the countrysa commodity. However, as Nijkamp, Rietveld, and Salomon (1990) informational needs and institutional actors in the ICT policy field.have observed, ICTs differ from other commodities because they The target cities, Douala and Yaounde, with a population of 1.5 andserve mainly to reduce uncertainties. At one level, ICTs can be 1.2 million respectively, are among the largest in SSA.viewed as elements that facilitate economic efficiency and Three distinct features characterize these two cities and otherproductivity. Within the context of the present discussion, the urban areas in Cameroon (Njoh, 1997; 2003, ch. 9; 2010). The first offunction of ICTs can therefore be appreciated in terms of their these features is the dispersal of human settlements and activityability to enhance the performance of urban areas or cities. In more centres over vast geographic space. The second is the compart-general terms, the importance of ICTs resides in their ability to mentalization of land use activities. Finally, there is what can beenhance the economic output of a place, firm or sector (Nijkamp christened as spatial ambiguity. Each of these features is discussedet al., 1990). At another level, ICT can be considered as a critical in turn.sector in its own right. In this regard, the sector is essentiallystructured according to high speed and reliable social and spatialinteraction channels. Accordingly, the flow of different entities, Dispersal of human settlements and activity centresincluding persons and commodities, but especially information, isprimordial as an objective of the ICT sector. This is a colonial legacy, and particularly a function of the racial The information element of urban management typically residential segregation policies of European colonial powers. Euro-involving urban planners, managers and users of urban space pean colonial authorities, beginning with the Germans, then theoperating at many overlapping levels can be reasonably classified as British and the French, enacted policies designed specifically to‘input,’ ‘extraction,’ and ‘administrative support.’ At the input level, spatially separate Europeans from the natives. On the one hand,a user of urban space, such as a motorist, is required to enter (i.e.,input) into a global positioning system (GPS) navigation device theprecise physical address of her destination. Based on this precisepiece of information, the device is able to provide the motorist withunambiguous directions to her destination. At another level, theuser of urban space may need a source from which to obtain(extract) information on health facilities in the city. Such informa-tion may be available in a printed or virtual city guide or telephonedirectory and may include the phone numbers and exact physicaladdresses for the facilities. The level of administrative support mayinvolve only municipal agencies whose task it is to collect and/ormaintain the data necessary to discharge public administrationresponsibilities. One example that comes to mind is the develop-ment and maintenance of spatial data infrastructure, includingrepositories for information on say, a city’s assets, taxable land andbuildings (cf., UNECA, 2011). Spatial and physical barriers to ICTs can be appreciated at twolevels. The first level includes all obstacles in the natural and builtenvironment that impede the smooth functioning of informationsystems in geographic space. At the second level, the barriersinclude factors that limit the ability of ICT devices to facilitate otheractivities in geographic space. These barriers can be grouped intofour major categories according to their origins or nature as follows(cf., Nijkamp et al., 1990): natural, institutional, man-made, andideological. The natural barriers include geological, geographic andtopographic features such as difficult-to-manage soil/rocks,mountains, hills, and swamps that may hinder communication orthe functioning of ICTs. Institutional barriers include governmentpolicies that affect the cost of communication and related facilities.Man-made physical barriers include structures in the built envi- Fig. 1. Map of Cameroon. Source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cameroon_ronment such as confusing street/place names, green wedges and provinces_english.png.
    • A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351 345Table 1Substantive planning areas with roles in urban management. Item Substantive Planning area Institutional actors Information needsa 1. Urban Land Use Planning Ministry of Urban Development; Information on buildings by type, quality and value; development & Development Yaounde/Douala permits & development application status; & aerial and other maps. City Council; Ministry of Information on land and ownership status; property cadastre Lands & State Property. and titles, assessed value; recreational & open spaces; land use by patterns, density, & development potential. Master and comprehensive development plans showing information on building codes, zoning and subdivision regulation, planned development and hazard mitigation. 2. Urban Transportation Ministry of Transportation. Transportation infrastructure and facilities; road capacity & use; traffic counts. 3. Urban Economic Development Ministry of Plan & Economic Employment opportunities by type and districts in urban areas; Development. household income; strength, weaknesses, opportunities & threats data. 4. Urban Infrastructure and Utilities Ministry of Urban Development; Real and potential users of public infrastructure and facilities, stock, Ministry of Public type & location of public infrastructure & facilities such as libraries, Works; SONEL/AES; SNEC; CAMTEL; parks, schools, health centres, hospitals as well as information on the personnel necessary to operate these facilities. 5. Population, Public Health & Safety Ministry of Public Health Real & potential health threats, fire stations in terms of location and number, police force in terms of composition, size and the spatial distribution of on- and off-duty police officers and stations, & police stations, crime statistics. Statistics on the population in terms of number and composition by gender, race, ethnicity and education. 6. Environment Ministry of the Environment. Data on topography, including details on elevation, geography, geology, bodies of water, floodplains, air quality, water quality, and real and potential hazards. a Adapted from Olfat, Rajabifard, Qureshi, & Daneshpour (2009).European enclaves and colonial government administrative centres Compartmentalization of land use activitieswere located on the highest elevations. On the other, members of thenative population were assigned to low-lying areas that were physi- This is a product of zoning. Zoning originated in Western Europecally far-removed, and separated by wide green belts or wedges, from where it served as an instrument to separate incompatible land usethe European enclaves. For instance, the plan for Douala, which was activities. This land use control instrument was introduced incrafted by the German Topographic Service in 1890 and revised in Cameroon as part of the broader colonial project to supplant1914, included a 1-km-wide green belt that separated the European indigenous models of spatial organization with European varieties.enclave and colonial government office park in Bonanjo from the The indigenous leadership has religiously adhered to the spirit ofnative areas in Deido and New Akwa, as well as the non-indigenous the spatial organization blueprint bequeathed to it by its colonialAfrican area in New Bell (Njoh, 2003; Schler, 2003). predecessor. The zoning ordinance constitutes a major component European enclaves were separated from the native areas not of this blueprint. At the same time, it is a prominent feature of theonly by physical distance. Rather, a distinguishing mark between master plans that have been drawn up mainly by Western planningthe two areas was the extent to which each was equipped with consultants for towns throughout the country. Within the frame-utility services, physical and social amenities. In this regard, the work of a typical master plan such as that for Kumba in thespacious facilities of the European enclaves were developed to the Southwest Region, a town is divided up into four major types ofphysical and environmental standards in vogue in Europe at the districts, namely residential, business, industrial and public (Njoh,time. Thus, these facilities were equipped with electricity, fixed 2003, ch. 9: 154). The residential district is further divided intotelephone lines, pipe borne water and well aligned, named and three distinct areas, including high-density, medium density, andsign-posted streets. In addition, houses and other buildings in these low density, roughly corresponding with the districts for low-enclaves were numbered. In contrast, none of these amenities was income, medium-income and high-income housing facilitiesprovided in the native areas. respectively. The public zone is also sub-divided into three different With the demise of colonialism and the concomitant departure functional areas as follows: public facilities, green space andof Europeans, the indigenous leadership assumed control of the municipal cemeteries.colonial government offices, and re-assigned the erstwhile Euro-pean quarters to members of the upper echelons of what at the Ambiguous spatial structurestime was an emerging independent government bureaucracy. Atthe same time, they designated the erstwhile native areas as the Imbibed within the folds of this feature is the complete absenceresidential district of low-income members of the society. While of precise and unambiguous addresses for physical elements in thethe upper-income areas continued to benefit from some degree of built environment. This problem is commonplace in both theupkeep and maintenance, particularly in terms of utility provi- upper- and lower-income areas. The only exception in the case ofsioning and planning code enforcement, the low-income areas Yaounde and Douala are the very small areas that served aswere virtually neglected. With the passage of time, the low-income exclusive European enclaves and government office parks duringareas have grown to unprecedented levels as deteriorating condi- the colonial era. Yet, these latter areas are also saddled withtions in rural areas increasingly result in mass rural-to-urban another problem, that of streets and major places going bymigration. Thus, with the demise of colonialism, racial spatial multiple names. In most cases, the streets go by two namesdonesegregation has effectively been transformed into socio-economic the official, which is known almost exclusively in official circles,spatial segregation. and the other, the popular, which is known by members of the
    • 346 A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351general public (Njoh, 2003, ch. 9). For example, as Njoh (2003, ch. Giscard d’Estaing, which is popularly known as OMS (derrière la9; 2010) has noted, a number of public places in Douala were CNPS); and rue 1.823, which is popularly known as Emana.recently given official names but continue to be more popularly The last example, which comprises the use of numbers or codesknown by their unofficial names. One example of this is Place de la as official street names, manifests yet another feature that exacer-Salle des Fêtes in Akwa, which was officially renamed, Place des bates the difficulties inherent in navigating the built environmentLions Indomptables in the 1990sd a tribute to the country’s in Cameroon. At best, numbers and codes can serve no more thannational soccer team. This name is however little known amongst record keeping purposes. This is because street users are unlikely tothe inhabitants, who continue to refer to it as Place de la Salle des commit to memory such complex digits that are usually posted onFêtes. To compound the problem of spatial ambiguity, some streets obscured electric poles or boundary walls (Njoh, 2003, ch. 9).in Douala go by multiple names. For example, as Fig. 2 shows, themajor street named Rue Joss also goes by the name, Boulevard de Urban spatial structures and the functionality of ICTsla Liberté. Although not shown on the map, the name Boulevard del’Unité is shared by two streets, one intersecting with the Boule- Information and communications technologies hold enormousvard du Général Leclerc and the other branching off towards the promise for urban management throughout the world. While thisnortheastern part of the city, and taking on yet another name, assertion may possess an intuitive appeal, there is a need to identifyAvenue Japoma, along the way. the specific areas of urban management most likely to benefit from Yaounde is also marred by the problem of ambiguous street ICTs. Lessons of experience from cities in the developed worldnames. One confusing feature of the streets in Yaounde is illus- reveal that ICTs have markedly improved the efficiency and effec-trated in Fig. 3. The figure contains a partial map of the city covering tiveness of municipal governments in the following specific areasthe area to the southwest quadrant of the map. Notice that three (Clarke, 2000; Lake, 1997; Nedovic-Budic, 2000; Nijkamp & Cohen-major streets in this area go by at least two names each. The is Blankshtain, 2009): urban land use planning and management;Avenue John Ngu Foncha, which also bears the name, Nouvelle urban transportation; urban infrastructure and utilities; localRoute Bastos. The second is Rue Nana Tchakounte, also known as economic development; and population, public health and safety.Rue Max Kamwa. finally, there is the street known as Avenue Jean Table 1 summarizes substantive planning areas with roles in urbanPaul II, which for good measure, goes by two other names, viz., management and development as well as some of their basicAvenue du 27 Août 1940 and Rue Sebastien Essomba. information needs. Many streets in the city go by multiple names, or at least by anunofficial and an official name. Examples of streets with largely Urban land use planning and managementunknown official, but popular unofficial names include, Avenue JohnNgu Foncha, popularly known as Nkom-Kana; Boulevard de l’URSS, The importance of ICTs for urban land use planning andpopularly known as route de l’Eglise Orthodoxe; rue Joseph Ate- management cannot be overstated. Information and communica-mengue, which is popularly known as Ambassade de France; rue de tion technologies are critical at the input, through-put and outputDjongolo, which is popularly known as route CEPER; rue Valery phases, corresponding roughly with the collection, storage, and Fig. 2. Partial Map of Douala show example of confusing street names.
    • A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351 347 Fig. 3. Partial map of Yaounde showing an example of the confusing nature of the citys street network. Source: Adapted from Openstreetsmap.com.dissemination, of information on land and land development more so in the case of real estate property whose value is largelyactivities. No meaningful planning is possible without ample and determined by its geographic location. More importantly, it is notaccurate information on land in terms of its availability, location, enough to simply know how to access and valuate the property.ownership status and use patterns, as well as the development and Once the property has been located and valuated, the next crucialrelated activities such as buildings, public and other infrastructure step is to store this information in a manner that facilitates itsthat it supports or is capable of supporting. Some of the major accessibility, retrieval and updating. In the absence of a precisepieces of information that must be collected in this process include and unambiguous address system, this process is virtuallythe precise physical addresses of all land development activities. impossible.The lack of an unambiguous physical addressing system renders the To be sure, data of the calibre alluded to here have existed intask of collecting such data difficult at best in Yaounde and Douala. map form dating back to the colonial era. For instance, the firstConsequently, planners in these cities must make planning deci- maps for both cities, which were produced by the German Topo-sions in the dark. The spatial structure of these cities, particularly graphic Service in 1890 are still in good usable condition. The post-their compartmentalized nature, also serve as an impediment to colonial authorities through the Services of Lands and Surveys asefforts to store critical land use data in the decentralized manner well as Town Planning, have since produced maps for these andnecessary for enhancing their accessibility. For instance, the storage other major cities throughout the country (Njoh, 2003, ch. 9). Theof such data is impossible in areas such as the impoverished Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure currently maintainsdistricts of these cities. These areas, as noted above, lack facilities records of state buildings and lands as well as allocated plots in thesuch as fixed telephone lines, broadband Internet cables and elec- two cities. However, it is important to note that these records,tricity necessary for the functioning of computers and related which are not yet in digital form, are maintained mainly for thesystems. Similarly, the dissemination of relevant land use and purpose of supporting the state’s administrative functions and notrelated information to the impoverished districts, which have for general public consumption. Yet, for these data to becomelimited or no access to ICT devices such as the internet and cable widely usable especially with the assistance of computers, theytelevision, is rendered difficult at best. need not only to be digitized but also regularly updated. Again, the Given current negative trends in the global economy, it is most obvious hurdle in this connection is the problem of ambig-informative to examine the problem of nondescript spatial uous spatial structures.structures characteristic of the two cities in terms of its impli- A World Bank study that was commissioned to deal with thecations for municipal government revenue generation. Municipal problem of ambiguous spatial structures in Douala and Yaoundeauthorities cannot assess and collect the necessary taxes or best summarizes the implications of the problem for urbancharges on local economic activities without accurate and management with the following rhetorical questions (Farvacque-complete knowledge of the location of these activities. This is Vitkovic, Godin, Leroux, & Chavez, 2005: 2):
    • 348 A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351 With no system of street coordinates, how do you find your way agencies are unable to benefit from the versatility of new ICTs in around a constantly growing city? How do you dispatch facilitating the maintenance of customer information, retail outlet ambulances, firemen, or law enforcement personnel quickly? planning, the routing of delivery vehicles, and the planning and How do you send mail and messages to private homes? How can scheduling routes (Njoh, 2010). At a minimum, cost and time are municipal services be provided? How do you pinpoint break- saved when precise addresses are used in conjunction with ICTs downs in water, electricity, and telephone services? How do you such as cellular phones to inform work crews in the field about the set up an efficient tax collection system? exact location of problems, such as a broken water line or a severed electric or telephone cable. Thus, a precise and unambiguous The last question is of particular essence to municipal and physical addressing system is capable of contributing to the effi-national government authorities responsible for land use planning. ciency of utility delivery entities or any entity that is responsible forWithout unambiguous addresses, these authorities are unable to delivering location-specific goods and services.use modern ICTs to facilitate the process of collecting, storing and The lack of precise physical addresses also limits the functioningdisseminating land and related data. Here, precise addresses are of otherwise user-friendly and inexpensive but versatile commu-necessary to enhance efforts to create a base for referencing data on nication devices such as two-way radios. In a setting with preciseland parcels as well as the legal interest associated with the parcels. and unambiguous physical addresses, office-based clerks can receive calls from customers experiencing problems with theirUrban transportation services and then use two-way radios to transmit these messages including the customers’ addresses to fieldworkers who may One aspect of information and communication technology that already be in the field for the day. Also, in such settings, office-is often taken for granted is transportation infrastructure. For the based police dispatchers can use two-way radios to summonpurpose of the present discussion, this comprises mainly the street police officers on patrol to crime and other scenes in need of policeand road network of the two cities under examination. As attention.mentioned earlier, one notable feature of most of these streets and The spatial structure of Douala and Yaounde makes it difficultroads is that they are either nameless or go under multiple names. not only to deliver services but also to keep records of existingAlso, as noted above, useable or functional public infrastructure, public infrastructure and services. Also noteworthy in this regardincluding roads, are limited to the upper-income areas or formerly is the extent to which ambiguous spatial structures limit orEuropean districts of the two cities. Yet another noted feature of the complicate contacts between utility and other service deliveryroads and streets in the two cities that has thus far not been companies and their clientele in these cities. This problem is at thementioned is the fact that they are very congested, narrow, winding heart of the question of ‘connectivity’ in ICT. “Are the servicesand marred by crater-like potholes, as well as frequent and available?” An important requirement for connectivity isawkward turns. These features, which are themselves symptomatic “connectedness” (Gester & Zimmermann, 2003). For ICTs, thisof severe urban management deficiencies, constrain municipal includes power (usually electrical energy) and the telephonegovernance efforts. For instance, municipal entities such as fire (usually of the fixed variety). Electrical energy is necessary todepartments that are charged with the task of ensuring public power ICT equipment, including but not limited to cell phones,safety are unable to effectively discharge their duties because of the televisions, computers, fax machines and printers. In Cameroon,lack of accessible roads or narrow streets that make it difficult if not the lack of precise physical addresses means that the country’simpossible for fire trucks to reach fire and other emergency scenes. monopoly hydro-electrical energy corporation, AES/SONEL cannotSimilarly emergency management and relief efforts are seriously bill clients through conventional mailing services. Consequently,constrained not only by the tedious but also the ambiguous nature the corporation must dispatch workers to deliver the bills toof the cities’ roads and streets. clients’ residential districts. In turn, the clients are required to Perhaps more noteworthy for the purpose of the present remit payments at the corporation’s sparingly-located regional ordiscussion is the extent to which ICTs can significantly curtail traffic district offices. Apart from the obvious inconveniences involvedcongestion in both cities. This goal is achievable through ‘tele- here, this process results in unnecessarily increasing the cost ofworking’ or ‘telecommuting,’ which is said to have a direct travel electricity and other utility. It is conceivable that the resultantsubstitution effect (Lake, 1997). ‘Teleworking,’ denoting a situation increase, however minute, places the cost of electricity and relatedin which economic production activities are afforded the flexibility utilities out of the reach of many people given Cameroon’s statusof locating anywhere, including workers’ homes, by ICTs, has as a low-income nation. Those most victimized by this process arealready helped to significantly reduce traffic congestion in cities in the poor, who are typically located in the low-income zones ofthe developed world (Lake, 1997). The link between ‘teleworking’ urban areas. As stated above, the upper-income districts of urbanand the reduction of traffic congestion is easy to appreciate. Any areasdthat is, the erstwhile European enclaves of the colonialworker not travelling to work means less kilometres travelled for eradare equipped with modern amenities, including fixed tele-work-related purposes. However, it must be conceded that because phones and electricity. The absence of these amenities and preciseof the dominance of the informal sector, ‘teleworking’ is a long way physical addresses in the low-income areas means that such areasfrom being of any utility in the two cities of interest here as well as are potentially deprived of ICT services such as automatic tellerother cities in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). machines (ATMs) the Internet, and cable television that require electricity to function.Urban infrastructure and utility provisioning The problem of ICT and related service provisioning is com- pounded by the compartmentalization of land use activities and The absence of a precise and unambiguous physical addressing the illogical dispersal of human settlements and activity centressystem also significantly reduces the effectiveness and efficiency of over vast space in the target cities. Some elements of ICT infra-utility delivery entities in the two cities. As Njoh (2003, ch. 9) has structure such as cabling, cost in direct proportion to their linearnoted, it is not unusual for field workers of utility companies in measure. Thus, 1 km of cable for fixed phones, cable television, orthese cities to take as much as a whole day to locate a building for electricity, is double the cost of 500 m of the same cable. In thiswhich a service has been requested. Thus, without unambiguous light, it is easy to glean a clearer picture of the challenge partiesphysical addresses, utility and other goods and/service delivery concerned with promoting ICT in the cities must face as they seek
    • A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351 349to extend existing ICT infrastructure from the government office Population, public health and safetyparks and/or upper-income districts to other zones. Information on aspects of the urban population such as sex, race,Local economic development ethnicity, age, level of education and income distribution are necessary for effective urban management. Information and Local economic development can be seen as a composite of the communication technologies can be helpful in the collection,productive activities of urban residents and enterprises. Nonde- storage and dissemination of such information. Apart from consti-script and ambiguous spatial structures impede the growth and tuting valuable input in the planning decision making process, suchdevelopment of such activities. This is particularly true for histor- information is necessary for identifying urban residents andically disenfranchised districts, and more so in this era of global- enlisting their participation in the urban governance process. Theization. Individuals without unambiguous permanent physical importance of precise street addresses attains its zenith in thisaddresses are invariably locked out of financial networks and other connection, especially with respect to using ICTs as a tool forbusiness opportunities (Njoh, 2010). This is because such networks, promoting democracy and combating fraud. The genre of accurateespecially modern financial institutions such as banks, depend on and fraud-proof data required as input for democratic electionformal systems of payment for their functioning. Seen from this systems depend on the precision and verifiability of the residentialperspective, it is easy to understand why sub-Saharan African addresses of voters. Documents such as the demographic profile,countries such as Cameroon have failed to take advantage of the government-issued identification documents (e.g., birth certificates,opportunities offered by globalization. As Anson (2007) contends, driver licences, and national identification cards) are not sufficientthis is neither a function of the absence of technology alone, nor without the precise physical addresses of the voters. Such addressesa result of simple bad luck or fate. Rather, it is a reflection of are necessary not only to prevent election fraud but also to ensurea serious lack of physical connectivity (Njoh, 2010). People and the logical or equitable location of voting stations vis-à-vis voters astraders are disconnected from each other due to the lack of well as to facilitate post-election analyses.a precise and unambiguous address system. This in turn leads to Information and communication technologies are capable ofa loss of many business opportunities, an increase in the cost of significantly reducing the gap that has historically separated theservice delivery, and a reliance on insecure and inefficient informal rich from the poor in cities of the developing world. As India’schannels of trade. visionary technologist, Sam Pitroda, once opined, ICTs are “the most The lack of unambiguous physical addresses creates another democratizing tool ever devised” (quoted in Warah, 2004: para. 2).type of connectivity problem, which can be better appreciated However, it is unlikely that the potential of ICTs as “a democratizingwithin the framework of the increasingly interconnected global tool” can be realized in cities such as Douala and Yaounde withouteconomy. As Njoh (2010) contends, the lack of physical connectivity deliberate action on the part of government authorities and otherseverely compromises a country’s ability to fully participate in the agents of development. Information and communication technol-modern global socio-economic environment. Correspondence ogies, under the rubric of e-governance, which depends on theeducational courses typically require precise physical addresses for internet, are already leading to more egalitarian forms of gover-record keeping and the mailing of course material. Telemarketing nance in South Africa. This country’s Independent Electoraland electronic commerce (e-commerce) requires verifiable physical Commission (IEC) employs ICTs to facilitate the democratic electionaddresses for record keeping, billing and merchandize shipment. process (Coetzee & Cooper, 2007).International express and cognate mail services also require such Some decades ago, a persuasive argument might have beenaddresses to transmit and pick-up mails/parcels. To the extent that made to the effect that the complexity of problems facing humanmost Cameroonians lack precise physical addresses, they cannot settlements in sub-Saharan Africa does not rise to the level thattake advantage of these and other opportunities offered by ICTs in necessitates the use of sophisticated technology. Hence, the use ofthis era of globalization. such technology would have been tantamount to an attempt to The common practice in Cameroon is to deliver mails exclusively employ a chain saw to slice butter. Such an argument is no longerthrough places of formal employment, which typically operate Post tenable. Today, human settlements in sub-Saharan Africa areOffice (mail) Boxes (POB) or Post Office Private Mailbags (PMB). This wrestling with problems that are arguably more complex thanmeans among other things that there is no door-to-door mail those facing cities in developed countries. While Africa remains thedelivery system and that only the very few employed in the formal least urbanized region in the world, its rate of urbanization of 1.1sector or affiliated with institutions that own POBs or PMBs are able percent is second only to Asia’s 1.24 percent (UNDESA, 2008). Theto receive conventional mail. Here, it is important to note that even rate of urbanization in the ‘Middle-Africa’ region of which Came-in developed countries, where there is widespread use of the roon is a part is as high as 4.29 percent (UNDESA, 2008). Further-internet and other modern ICT devices, post offices and conven- more, Africa’s urban population of 373 million exceeds Northtional mail services continue to play a critical role. Conventional America’s 275 million. Concomitant with these rapid rates ofmailing services are necessary for the functioning of some of the urbanization has been a corresponding sharp increase in urbanmost innovative aspects of new technologies such as e-commerce. crime rates and levels of insecurity (UN, 2009).To appreciate this line of reasoning, consider what happens when In particular, urban crime rates have been on the rise in sub-a merchandize is ordered and paid for over the internet. In the US, Saharan African cities since the 1990s (UN, 2009). In Yaounde, forfor instance, this merchandize typically has to be delivered by the instance, the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)US Postal Service, Mail carriers or by private courier services such as reports that street and residential crimes, especially mugging,the United Parcel Service (UPS), and Federal Express (FEDEX). What banditry and armed robbery, are growing increasingly rampantthis means is that conventional communications and face-to-face (FCO, online). The US State Department’s Overseas Security andcontacts remain necessary to complement and facilitate the func- Advisory Council (OSAC) concurs, and adds that “armed vehicletioning of even the most sophisticated ICTs. Thus, while an ever- hijackings also continue to be a major cause for concern” (OSAC,increasing share of contemporary daily activities depends on Online, para. 5). The OSAC report went on to say that, “some‘electronic streams and invisible bits,’ the ‘real world’ continues to victims of vehicle hijackings are taken in the car by the bandits fordemand physical and visible inputs as well as face-to-face inter- several miles to ensure that any anti-theft device is deactivated”actions (cf., Nijkamp & Cohen-Blankshtain, 2009: 12). (Ibid, para. 5). The areas most susceptible to criminal activities are
    • 350 A.J. Njoh / Habitat International 36 (2012) 343e351the poorest such as La Briquetterie and Quartier Haoussa in the case the street, and the third line is the name of the city in which it isof Yaounde (see Fig. 3), and New Bell and Bepanda in the case of located, while the fourth line is the prefix for the addressee’sDouala (see Fig. 2). It is no coincidence that these areas are those administrative region (in this case, CE for the Centre Region). Themost notorious for their nondescript spatial structures. Conse- first three digits after CE represent the city code for Yaoundequently, the areas are the least likely to benefit from ICTs, which can (assuming that Yaounde is City number 1 in the Centre Region),significantly facilitate the task of police patrol and surveillance. while Q021 represents Quarter number 21 in Yaounde. Here, it isInformation and communication devices such as two-way radios or assumed that Briqueterie in which the fictitious addressee lives iswalkie-talkies, and GPS navigation systems can help police and law Quarter Number 21 in the City of Yaounde (see the street map forenforcement officials to rapidly intervene in matters of civic Yaounde above). It is worth noting that Cameroonians are typicallyunrests, domestic violence, and life-threatening emergencies. knowledgeable of the various quarters or neighbourhoodsConversely, the nondescript spatial structure of Douala, Yaounde comprising the cities or towns in which they live.and other major cities in the region seriously compromises the With respect to ICTs, the national government can make theutility of ICT devices. provisioning of services in low-income neighbourhoods a condition Furthermore, the efforts of emergency vehicles, particularly for information service providers to operate in the country. Suchambulances and fire trucks, to reach accident victims and/or others a requirement as it is being proposed here is akin to the ‘Fair Sharetaken suddenly ill, are thwarted by hurdles associated with Housing’ policy, which seeks to promote greater social equity in theimprecise property addresses. With a precise addressing system, supply of housing in the US. The policy attains this goal by requiringthe time lag between the onset of an emergency such as a fire, and that all municipalities assume their fair share of affordable or low-the arrival of firefighters is significantly reduced. In the absence of and moderate-income housing (Sawicki et al., 2003). Thus, insuch a system, valuable time that could have gone towards saving a similar fashion, internet and communication service providerslives or property is wasted on efforts to locate affected property or can be required to assume their fair share of services in low-incomeperson(s). Similarly, the absence of unambiguous addresses can areas as a pre-condition for operating in Cameroon.significantly thwart efforts to rescue and/or evacuate disaster Municipal authorities in Douala and Yaounde do not have tovictims. Precise addresses serve more than emergency purposes. re-invent the proverbial wheel. Rather, they can learn someFor instance, such addresses are necessary to help citizens pinpoint lessons from their counterparts in South Africa, which is by farthe location of health service institutions and facilities such as the trailblazer in this regard. In the Town of Knysna for instance,hospitals, clinics and dispensaries. Precise addresses can also help residents of informal and other impoverished settlements arecitizens locate public security-related facilities such as police provided free internet access through a network of WiFi hotstations. spots and free phone services using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) (ICTregulationtoolkit.org, Online). Public security inRecommendations and concluding remarks Knysna is ensured with the use of closed circuit TV cameras that have been strategically installed throughout the town. The existing nomenclature, particularly quarters or quartiers (in The growing complexities of large African cities such as DoualaFrench), as in Quartier Bamilike, Quartier Haoussa, Quartier Bastos, and Yaounde dictate not only the accentuation of community/and so on in Yaounde, can be used in conjunction with the country’s private and public partnership but more importantly, the use ofexisting administrative taxonomies serve as the basis for a func- ICTs in efforts designed to deal with security and safety matters.tional physical addressing system. This is true in the country’s major The United Nations recognizes this need and is already creating, orcities and other human settlements throughout the country (Njoh, supporting, programmes to promote the use of ICTs in crime2010). Such a system can borrow some, but not all, elements of fighting and prevention efforts in cities in developing countries.extant addressing systems in developed countries. The first impor- One of these programmes involves the setting up of five justicetant element in this regard is a post or zip code, which is invariably centres coupled with police patrols in six urban areas, Pikine,geographically bound and may be numeric (as in the case of France) Rufisque, Guedawaye, Grand Dakar and the Yoff/Grand Yoff urbanor alphanumeric (as in the case of the US and the UK). A code of the complex in the Dakar peninsula, Senegal (Gonzales, 1998). A crucialalphanumeric variant is deemed suitable for Cameroonian cities not element of the Senegalese programme consists of the use of digitalonly because of its simplicity but especially because it dovetails patrol maps to optimize the use of scarce resources (Ibid). Inneatly into the country’s extant politico-administrative taxonomy addition, the police officers are provided with two-way radios,and vehicle identification system. This system uses an alpha prefix which enable them to report back at all times to receivecorresponding with the country’s ten administrative regions. For instructions.instance, the prefix for Littoral, where Douala is located is LT, while Despite its obvious nature, the ambiguous spatial and physicalthe one for the Centre Region, the area of which Yaounde is a part, is structure of African cities has largely been ignored in the discourseCE. A functional addressing system for the country can therefore on ICT for development on the continent. For instance, a recentcomprise an alpha prefix coupled with a set of six digits grouped in meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum that focused solely on ICTtwo pairs of three digits each. Within the proposed framework, the in Africa, identified inadequate infrastructure, limited access, andfirst three digits will represent a particular city, say Douala or lack of institutional supportdbut not the absence of physicalYaounde, while the last three, preceded by the letter Q (for Quarter addressesdas hurdles to the development of ICT on the continentor Quartier in French) stands for a specific neighbourhood in that (see APF, 2008). Yet, as demonstrated in this paper, the functioningcity. Accordingly, a mailing address in Yaounde may appear as of ICTs and concomitant devices is extremely limited at best andfollows: nullified at worst in the absence of precise and unambiguous Dr. Amah T. Mbahbit physical addresses. 11217 Rue de la Briqueterie Yaounde CE 001 Q021 References Cameroon. Anson, J. (2007). Connecting the ‘Unconnected’ in Sub-Saharan Africa: Postal network The first line of the above fictitious address represents the mail can leverage access to infrastructure. Berne, Switzerland: United Nations’recipient’s name, the second is his house number and the name of Universal Postal Union.
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Barriers in spatial interactions and communications; a conceptual exploration. Annals of Regional Science, 24(4), Ambe J. Njoh, Ph.D., is a Professor of Urban & Regional Planning and Director of the 237e252. Urban & Regional Planning Program, Department of Geography, Environment andNjoh, A. J. (1997). Colonial spatial development policies, economic instability and Planning at the University of South Florida. He is the author of eight books, including urban public transportation in Cameroon. Cities, 14(3), 133e143. Planning in Contemporary Africa (Ashgate, 2003), Tradition, Culture and DevelopmentNjoh, A. J. (2003). Planning in contemporary Africa: The state, town planning and in Africa (Ashgate, 2006), Planning Power (UCL/Routledge, 2007) and more than fifty society in Cameroon. Aldershot, UK: Ashgate. 235e260. peer-reviewed articles.