Schneider report reiterates importance of ICT for Smart Cities

Schneider Electric India

Smart Cities India

Schneider Electric India, the global energy management specialist and leader in energy efficiency, believes ICT deployment is crucial to convert existing cities into Smart Cities. The group highlighted the importance of ICT by citing a November 2014 India Infrastructure Research report titled, ‘ICT in Urban Governance – Survey’.

If the NDA Government’s vision of 100 Smart Cities is to become a reality, the relevant data will be invaluable for Central and State Governments.

From hundreds of eligible cities, the first most likely 53 have been surveyed initially out of the 100 brownfield cities that would be on the Government’s agenda for conversion into Smart Cities. The report said the scope and scale for ICT varies across cities, depending upon their size, needs, financial resources and approach to ICT by the city’s top management, which included Municipal Commissioners and IT heads. Presently, most civic agencies have implemented IT modules in E-governance.

Elaborating on the highlights of the ‘ICT in Urban Governance – Survey’ report by India Infrastructure Research, Mr. Anil Chaudhry, President and Country Head, Schneider Electric India, said: “The major benefits from ICT adoption would be efficiency and transparency, with about 94 percent of civic agencies mentioning this. Around 84 percent of survey respondents believe costs savings and promoting citizen participation would be the other benefits. Moreover, ease of monitoring, better accessibility and standardisation of services are cited as additional benefits by 78 percent, 74 percent and 71 percent, respectively.”

Presently, about 80 percent civic agencies allocate less than one percent of their budgets to ICT. A majority expect less than 10 percent increase in IT budgets over the next two years, leaving immense scope for expansion. Ironically, although 90 percent of civic agencies believe ICT will ensure tremendous benefits in terms of transparency and accountability, actual allocations are less than 1-5 percent, with many states spending much less than the allocated amounts.

But only 28 percent have adopted electronic services for smart water and waste management. Amongst core services, water and sewage management systems have been adopted by more than 30 percent. SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) is the most preferred smart grid solution, deployed by more than 40 percent. Around 60 percent of cities have either implemented or are considering SCADA and rooftop solar integration.

While 65 percent of civic agencies have implemented online property tax solutions, from the remainder, about 96 percent will offer this by 2016. Online bill generation has been implemented or is under implementation by more than 70 percent. In the case of town planning, there is only limited ICT penetration. But building plan approval and trade licence solutions have been adopted by more than 70 percent. The other modules implemented include: building completion certificate (57 percent), spatial planning (43 percent), allotment of housing/shops (32 percent) and land development and road widening (30 percent).

Although most services are managed in-house, outsourcing is fast becoming popular. Citizen services, accounting and revenue management, administrative functions and e-governance are largely managed in-house, while GIS and smarter transportation areas are usually outsourced. The most common solution adopted by more than 85 percent was E-tendering. Also, more than 75 percent of cities have ICT-enabled services that benefit citizens, such as issue of birth and death certificates, customer grievance redressal and establishment of civic centres/e-seva kendras.

GPS-based vehicle tracking has been adopted by more than 65 percent. Intelligent street lighting facilities have either been implemented or are under implementation by more than 40 percent of civic agencies. Passenger information system, intelligent traffic management, automated fare system and video surveillance facilities have been implemented or are under implementation by more than 25 percent.

The report however says capacity constraints and integration of legacy data are major challenges in ICT implementation. Limited capacity at the city level was one of the biggest management concerns, as per about 70% of civic agencies.

Mr. Anil Chaudhry concluded, “Successful implementation by other cities should, however, inspire the laggards to opt for faster adoption of ICT solutions, which will play a key role in existing cities as well as in creating greenfield Smart Cities. Furthermore, such solutions could be dovetailed with the Central Government’s other programmes such as the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ or Clean India campaign, since survey statistics reveal only 28 percent civic agencies have adopted smart water and waste management techniques.”