IT Integration Makes City Smart: Dhiraj Wali

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Dhiraj Wali, Vice President, Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions

It is impossible to think of a Smart City without innovative technology solutions; a modern-day city can become smart only through technology integration and IT-enabled delivery of information and services, insists Dhiraj Wali, Vice President, Bosch Engineering & Business Solutions, in an interview with Manish Arora of Elets News Network (ENN)

What challenges do you see in the implementation of ‘Digital India’ and ‘100 Smart Cities’ projects at the ground level?

Apart from ‘Digital India’ and ‘100 Smart Cities’ project, the government has also launched ‘Make in India’ and ‘Skill Development’ missions. All these initiatives simultaneously impact the country at systemic level to bring about sustainable growth and development. In addition, there is also the AMRUT scheme, earlier known as JnNURM, for the development of 500 cities and towns. All these projects have their specific strategic relevance, scope and action plan.

On July 10, 2014, the government had announced the vision of developing ‘100 Smart Cities’ as satellite towns of larger cities and by modernising the existing mid-sized cities. The project was approved by the Cabinet on April 29, 2015, along with the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) project, and launched on June 24, 2015. Of the 100 smart cities, 75 will be located in 12 states. Each selected city would get Rs 100 crore per year for the next five years.

The AMRUT project is meant for 500 towns and cities with more than one lakh population. The government has earmarked central outlay of Rs 48,000 crore for the proposed 100 smart cities and Rs 50,000 crores for the 500 towns and cities. An SPV is planned to be launched for each city with the responsibility to implement the smart city project.

What is the role of technology in a Smart City?

 It’s almost impossible to think of a present-day life without innovative technology solutions, whether it’s the use of smart phones and mobile applications, digital payments, Aadhaar-based digital identification, Internet, intelligent transportation and distribution, and advanced geographical information systems, to name a few. A well-developed and smart city has to be technologically integrated and enabled by IT.

Since technology is at the core of Smart Cities, how will it accommodate those who are technologically illiterate?

One of the guiding principles of establishing Smart Cities is to include all citizens regardless of their level of education, skills or income levels. Technology, in fact, should make it simple and easy; both for the authorities to reach out to each and every citizen and vice-versa. Also, since the cities are expected to follow ‘retrofit’ approach by identifying select areas for transforming as smart areas, the said problem would automatically get addressed.

One major issue in big cities in India is transportation. How do you see this being tackled in cities like Delhi and Bangalore?

Deployment of smart technology solutions is the key to curb traffic snarls. However, there is no single solution that will fit all cities. The current situation, existing infrastructure / assets will have to be kept in mind while planning various ‘technology interventions’ to streamline or improve the transportation and traffic needs of cities.

Apart from road and Metro rail infrastructure, the public transport system has to be reliable, safe, comfortable and affordable. Smart technology solutions like ‘Integrated Transportation Solution’ and ‘Traffic Management Solutions’ can significantly improve the overall public transportation scenario.

Where do you see the Smart Cities initiative in the next five years?

The project of Smart Cities is gigantic and needs very good understanding and planning to implement it. As per indications, the Smart Cities will mostly adopt ‘retrofit’ approach. Next practical option would be ‘re-development’ approach. Green Field option may be applied only in case of a few cities. Based on ‘retrofit’ and ‘redevelopment’ approach, the rest of the city can be covered in a planned manner in phases. Under retrofit and redevelopment approach, the progress would be phase-wise and good results can be achieved in a period of five to ten years.

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