Navi Mumbai Civic Body Goes Hi-Tech: G V Rao

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G V Rao Assistant Commissioner, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation

Smart Cities will make the country more technology-oriented. Keeping this thought in mind, G V Rao, Assistant Commissioner, Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation, in an interview with Poulami Chakraborty of Elets News Network (ENN), talks about how NMMC is planning to come up with various new IT initiatives for development

Technology has always played a major role in change. How has it been adopted by the NMMC ecosystem?

The Government of India has formulated the National Mission Mode Programme (NMMP) for eGovernance in Municipalities, through which the NMMC has implemented an integrated eGovernance solution. We are aiming to improve operational efficiencies within the urban local bodies (ULBs) using the technology and create a better interface between citizens and the government. Also, we are able to improve our service delivery mechanism in order to achieve better information management and transparency and ensure citizen involvement in governance.

One of the best developmental activities undertaken is the introduction and implementation of Geographic Information System (GIS) for data maintenance and preservation and proper monitoring of the municipal administration. GIS is a technology adopted by NMMC to introduce an automated service in our system. While introducing it, NMMC got some of its staff members trained on using the new GIS-integrated platform. Currently, we are taking advantage of GIS to identify and link up with property and water tax systems.

At NMMC, 90 per cent of the ULB functions are technology-aided, not just for day-to-day transaction processing of citizen services, but majorly for higher-level analytic and diagnostic purposes. The NMMC eGovernance application is based on open standard and open source technologies built with latest technology.

With the recent announcement of Smart City projects across the country by the Prime Minister, what major projects have been taken up or are in the pipeline of NMMC?

In the urban planning field, smartness in smart growth is treated as a normative claim and ideological dimension. Being smarter entails strategic directions. Governments and public agencies at all levels are embracing the notion of smartness to distinguish their new policies, strategies and programmes for targeting sustainable development, sound economic growth and better quality of life for their citizens.

There are some initiatives undertaken/ proposed by NMMC like CCTV surveillance system for crime detection and traffic control, geo-referencing survey of tree census and cloud-based road traffic automation solution, among others. NMMC is also planning to develop a cloud-based application that processes traffic-relevant data. The solution will analyse the sensor data transmitted by traffic guidance systems at intersecting roads and makes them available in almost real time.

How has technology been exploited by NMMC to ensure better safety and security within its jurisdiction?

NMMC has provided city surveillance system for the safety and security of citizens. Under the project, 27 signal locations are provided with four fixed and one PTZ camera. This has given an extra eye to police for crime detection and traffic control.

All busy locations like railway station, market places and bus stops are provided with sufficient number of cameras to monitor minute-to-minute activity at all places. All seven entry/exit points to Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation area are provided with required number of cameras. At Vashi Entry Point, we have provided Number Plate Recognition Software in all cameras. City surveillance constitutes of 268 cameras with feeds terminating at the Police Commissioner’s office, where these are recorded and monitored. We have also provided a storage capacity of 30 days for all cameras. Police departments have video feed related to more than 500 crimes, of which 300 have been resolved.

What have been the challenges while implementing IT in its project for Tier II and Tier III cities?

Several ULBs lack the basic framework required for smart governance. Fortunately, NMMC has crossed this benchmark long ago. As part of our eGov Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation, most of the limiting factors have been addressed. Given the varied nature of civic functions handled by the local bodies and non-availability of acceptable level of prerequisites, such as good connectivity (both digital & physical), poor IT infrastructure, non-adherence to best processes, non-compliance to reform measures, absence of skilled man-power, the Smart City concept may take a longer time to fructify in Tier II and Tier III cities.

Are there any upcoming projects which will contribute to PM’s mandate for Smart Cities in Maharashtra?

NMMC has been the forerunner in adapting innovative solutions for urban governance. Many of the key features of PM’s 100 Smart City projects have already been implemented. These include data centre, smart street lighting system, automatic traffic signal, better public transport facility, mobile and quick accident relief, etc. The extensive use of GIS-based software applications has streamlined key civic functions. Now, NMMC is embarking on next-level smart functions such as intelligent transport management, IP-based city surveillance, GIS-based asset management, smart phone-based citizen delivery systems, EMRI, digital public library, GIS-based election voter ID systems, facial identity management for public safety and nabbing criminals.

There are a number of initiatives undertaken/ proposed by NMMC like CCTV surveillance system for crime detection and traffic control, georeferencing survey of tree census and cloud-based road traffic automation solution, among others

What according to you are the benchmarks for Smart city under NMMC?

Building of Smart Cities is a process rather than a static outcome. Increased citizen engagement, hard infrastructure, social capital and digital technologies make cities more livable, resilient and respond better to challenges.

While many cities have big ideas, a few of these have the big resources needed to make them reality. NMMC is fortunate to have these resources to undertake new initiatives, both financially and technologically aided by the mandate of the management team.

Even as normal and structured data is not yet collected for benchmarking, NMMC plans to benchmark its activities vis-à-vis others in critical performance indicator such as public safety, energy conservation, technology investments, crime control, social infrastructure management. NMMC has already taken performance-based measures to keep tabs on its projects. It has recently invested in Business Intelligence Software realising that analytics is one of the digital underpinnings of a smart city.

Another aspect that we cannot miss is citizen engagement platform as a vital benchmark for smart governance. It is essential to recruit assistance and input from all stakeholder groups before, during and after smart city initiatives. Be it the council members, corporators, bureaucrats, line personnel or the back-end support team, very soon all stakeholders led by citizens will have app-driven mode of engagement with NMMC. As an initial beginning, android tablets have been distributed to key stakeholders and new plans are being made for developing smart app for citizens for numerous delivery services.

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