The new laws we need to make our cities ‘smart’

Thursday night’s state of the nation address (Sona) made me think of a young petrol attendant I met in rural Eastern Cape. He was eloquent, erudite and perfect for a business process outsourcing centre-type job, such as a call centre.

After the Sona, the possibility of a smart city, or smart village, could well bring that business process outsourcing job to him.

There are legal and regulatory considerations that come with the smart city and the fourth industrial revolution that President Cyril Ramaphosa proposed in his Sona.

We need clear and practical laws regulating issues such as broadband data, privacy, identity and security.


Lucien Pierce

The Electronic Communications Act governs the high-demand spectrum we need to get good broadband data into rural areas.

The communications minister will need to issue the policy directive that the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) needs to kick-start spectrum licensing.

Smart cities need reliable spectrum, the kind that 5G provides, which is what Icasa should consider when it releases spectrum.

Cities should start drafting their own by-laws to regulate construction of all the masts needed for 5G.


The Protection of Personal Information Act must become effective urgently. Smart cities have many privacy implications.

The proliferation of CCTV cameras across Johannesburg comes to mind.

Personal information, such as number plates, biometric information and location data, is certainly being collected.

This needs to be strictly regulated. Without the act’s protections, personal information could easily be used unlawfully.

Digital identity and e-Rica

T he department recently issued its white paper, which focuses on the fourth industrial revolution. To achieve this, the department contemplates two new laws – a Home Affairs Act and a National Identity System Act. To be a smart country, home affairs needs to pass these two laws speedily.


As we become more digital, we face the constant threat of cybercrime. South Africa’s Cybercrimes Bill is making its way through the legislative process.

It deals with cybercrimes investigation and ways in which the police can collaborate with counterparts in other countries (because a hacker could be sitting on the other side of the world).

This new law must be finalised urgently.

As more citizens go online, we need to ensure we have a deterrent against cybercrime.

Critical infrastructure

Cybercriminals can bring cities to their knees by shutting down networks and preventing citizens from accessing essential services.

Hospitals have been taken offline, stopping doctors from accessing patient records.

We have a draft law called the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, which imposes standards for the protection of certain critical infrastructure.

Imagine the resulting chaos if our entire banking payments system went down because of a cyberattack.

If we want resilient and protected smart cities, this law needs to be passed quickly.

The sooner we get these laws and policies finalised, the sooner we will be able to create smart cities and smart villages that will provide the jobs young people desperately need.

Pierce is managing director at Phukubje Pierce Masithela Attorneys. He focuses on the commercial and regulatory aspects of telecommunications, media and technology


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