Developing Smart Cities: Driving Economic Growth
The 100 Smart Cities initiative is the dream project of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which aims to provide better living conditions to the citizens. What makes a city Smart is not only smart infrastructure but also a smart society: no doubt, a Smart City requires technological infrastructure, but it also has to undergo some social changes. Some important components of Smart Cities may include 24×7 potable water, electricity, better drainage system, transport, technology-backed solutions, but smart education to the children and safety of women and senior citizens is equally essential and will surely add value to it. Further, the department of Social Justice and Empowerment will undertake safety and of security of women.
The Smart City debate has now shifted to the next level. A competition has begun among the States in the context of 100 Smart Cities, as they have to identify the cities they would like to be developed as Smart Cities. Some of the states have already initiated the process. The cities participating in the challenge would need to prepare a proposal on ICT usage and chalk out a certain plan for moving forward. Urban management in India has huge setup challenges and the system, which is currently in place, cannot be a model. He underlined that to make cities of India Smart, there’s need for an integrated approach to modernise city infrastructure and leverage technology to improve capacity and efficiency of service delivery. Most of the states have understood the importance and significance of Smart Cities and in many of the cities, facilities like property taxes, birth and death certificates are available online.
Smart Cities for All
A Smart City must be able to address the problems of health, poverty and agriculture. If technology-led cities do not serve the common people, poor, farmers, teachers, labourers and housewives alike, then it is a luxury. Rural and distant areas are still deprived of uninterrupted internet services and even basic telecom facilities. Therefore, such societal gap has to be bridged with the concept of Smart City. The concept has infused a new confidence and power and giving us a new dream for our future. The response from the States is overwhelmingly enthusiastic. The government will spend millions on the scheme and each city will get Rs 100 cr assistance for next five years for overall development of infrastructure. Water is one of our basic necessities but we don’t have mechanism of supplying good drinking water in our rural areas. We must get away with the culture of buying mineral water packaged bottle. Another need is to improve the level of school education. There has to be uniform level of education in the country, along with good faculty.
A Smart City requires advanced infrastructure by using smart solutions and service delivery to improve the quality of life. Apart from adequate water and assured electricity supply, the government has been very keen to create affordable housing. People will require to have smart houses in smart cities. Keeping this in mind, the government has launched 100 Smart Cities, AMRUT and Affordable Housing schemes. The government has set guidelines for smart homes and environment. For greenfield areas, 80 per cent buildings would be energy-efficient green buildings and 15 per cent of the buildings will be in the affordable housing category. Smart housing is not all about residential buildings, LED-based lighting, and passive and active energy use, but a few other essential components are also required.
Change in Mindset
The Smart City concept is still evolving and will continue to evolve in the days to come, smart education is an important component for it. I would like to emphasise here that there is a huge difference between literacy, knowledge and education, and smart education is much beyond just being literate. Basically, smart city is a change in the mindset, i.e. a shift in the way we perceive things and follow the rules. Smart city does not require only money, but it is the concept of life that we need to change. Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) is looking for investments from across the world. We are also in talks with the United States to see how we can evolve business strategies. In building the smart cities, we need support and cooperation from not just the government’s side, but also from the private sector, people, society and all stakeholders. For this, we are also looking at relaxation in FDI guidelines.
The Local Angle
The main player and real stakeholders in creating smart cities would be the state governments and the urban local bodies. The Government of India will support the states and suggest the mode of development. There are four models — first is retrofit development plan for 500 acre land; second, redevelopment plan for 50 acre land; third, compact plan for 250 acre vacant area; and fourth is general improvement plan. Selection of smart cities is being done by the state governments, because people in Delhi cannot decide how Chennai should be developed. People of the cities and states concerned would have better idea of the local needs and requirements. The Central Government has decided to spend `48,000 crore to implement the 100 Smart Cities programme and another `48,000 crore will be contributed by the states. NITI Aayog, NASSCOM and the Ministry of Urban Development should sit together and find out the institutional mechanism for it. There has to be an advisory forum, forward plan of five years and intervention for approval, etc.
Special Address : Innovation in Technology
Smartness can be achieved through technological innovations alone. We need to work across different ministries to help senior citizens come out of the negative state to act more quickly; we need to have technology solutions like integrated case management to help them out. There is a technology solution, but the secret ingredient of success is that we need to talk to each other across different governments. We are trying to improve mobility, health, well-being, safety, economic prosperity, active living, etc. Those are the outcomes that we are trying to achieve, and the only mechanism to achieve these outcomes is the services that we offer. So, the focus should be more on the services that we deliver and then understand the processes. There are three things to consider: who shall measure whether a city is smart or not? If technology is enabled, what about the smart city initiatives that will make the difference? And finally, what services are we improving and what will a smart city achieve? So, who, what and why are the three major questions to be answered. Also, it is necessary to keep ourselves honest and true while implementing smart initiatives.
Preserving & Deciphering Data
Smart cities leverage ICT in the various operations of a city that include water supply, electricity, safety, transport, etc. In a smart city, smart people need to take smart decision based on real time data to improve the quality of life of its citizen, and NetApp has been into business of storing and managing the data for over two decades now. The California Natural Resources Agency (CNRA), which consists of 29 departments, deals with the state’s precious resources, including coastlines to parks, ocean resources, wildlife, energy resources and water. All of them had their own applications to serve business requirements before 2008, but when partnered with the NetApp, all the 29 departments merged under ITbased hybrid cloud together to crack problems. Now, they have access to data on real time basis to take right decisions. NetApp has also been instrumental in the creation of centralised architecture as well.
Smart Cities are going to be a successful venture in India. State governments and private players will play key role in implementing this project. The initiative is not only about ICTs but also sustainable transportation, clean energy, water, safety, security, telecommunications, etc. The priorities of smart cities are identified by the government, public and the private sector. US companies have been working here for so many years. USTDA takes care of physical and IT infrastructure. India, in collaboration with the US industries, should jointly undertake catalytic projects, workshops and conferences to bring investment here. It is a matter of pride that other nations have started looking at the Smart City model in India. USTDA recently signed MoUs with three state governments — Uttar Pradesh (Allahabad), Rajasthan (Ajmer) and Andhra Pradesh (Vizag) — to sponsor activities on safety, energy, communication and infrastructure. We have started working on planning and master advisory of these cities.