Smarter Cities in Digital India

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Smarter Cities

The rapid pace of urbanisation and growing pressure on urban resources is forcing more and more governments across the globe to create smarter urban spaces. And, it’s no different in India. As the government pushes its Digital India dream, it carries along the idea of Smart Cities, for both complement each other, writes Nirmal Anshu Ranjan of Elets News Network (ENN).

Ever since the ascension of Narendra Modi-led NDA Government at the Centre, there has been an increased focus on achieving economic revival, pushing inclusive growth, accelerating the pace of industrial development, providing social security to the people below the poverty line and empowering the common man.

However, the government knew it only too well that the ideas like inclusive growth and empowerment of citizens cannot be translated into reality in a vast and diverse country like India that easily. So, it went ahead with the launch of a number of programmes running on technology, which has the power to transcend geographical barriers to take benefits of governance to the last man in the remotest corner of the land. And, in this context, the Digital India programme of the Centre served well as the all-crucial hinge to support its technologydriven initiatives.

Idea of Digital India

The Digital India initiative of the Government aims to ensure that government services are made available to citizens electronically by improving online infrastructure and by increasing Internet connectivity. It includes an ambitious plan to connect rural areas with high-speed internet network, work on which is already under way in certain pockets of the country. Basically, the concept of Digital India entails three core components: creation of digital infrastructure, delivery of services digitally and digital literacy, which would work together to make the country a smarter nation.

However, the new dispensation was alert to the fact that before a country goes digitally smart, it must also become physically as well as socially smart: if there is inadequacy of housing, roads, transportation, energy, water supply, healthcare, education or sanitation infrastructure, the dream of a digital India is destined to remain a pipedream. In fact, at the root of the problem lies the rapid pace of urbanisation, as hordes of people continue to troop into metros and other big cities in search of employment opportunities and better living standard, thereby leading to an unmanageable load on the limited urban resources.

Towards smarter cities

So, in line with its electoral promise, when the BJP-led Central Government announced the 100 Smart Cities Mission, it caught the imagination of one and all—urban planners, the common man, businesses and other stakeholders—alike. They had already been feeling an acute need for improvement in urban infrastructure, so that cities could cope with the ever-swelling headcount.


Roshan Gupta
Head – Global Alliance & PSU, Business Octane

Digital India– the dream project of the Government of India focuses to digitally empower each and every citizen of the country making them more efficient, irrespective of climatic, geographical or political diversities. However, in order to maximise its benefits, the use of technology needs to be simplified. Therefore, we have developed solutions which are simple to use just like a mobile phone. Business Octane’s immersive visual collaboration solutions bring paradigm shift in human interaction by empowering people across multiple locations.


  • The solutions offered by the company can change the way how ministers and top government officials in the Central Government, State Governments and other government departments, get together with the zonal heads, district heads and other concerned officials to discuss, direct and review things effectively and frequently without travelling from their base locations. This will dramatically speed up the implementation and execution of various important schemes and projects as well as avoid work disruptions.
  • To help our customers take better decisions and leave nothing to imagination, we have also built executive experience centers across major cities of India i.e. Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Gurgaon, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.

Srinivas Rao
Sales Director – Government Sector, Hitachi Data Systems

The government’s Digital India vision is expected to propel the country into its next phase of growth. While both Smart Cities and Digital India projects will create new economic and social opportunities, they will also bring up challenges related to technology adoption and implementation to make the Digital India vision a reality.


  • To make the Digital India vision a reality, it is critical to develop the technology infrastructure backbone that addresses issues related to last-mile technology delivery, civic and urban infrastructure management and empowering citizens and local governments.
  • Technology adopted should aim to develop solutions for issues like population boom, rapid urbanisation, rising healthcare costs, public safety concerns, etc
  • To bring about greater citizen participation and thus empowering them to contribute to India’s economic growth, we will need to engage the growth opportunities in areas like broadband availability, connectivity in education, connected healthcare, citizen services, agriculture, etc


We are working with the government and ecosystem players to make the Digital India vision a success. Our social innovation strategy forms the crux of our growth story in India. Social Innovation is Hitachi Data Systems’ holistic approach to helping businesses and societies address the challenges and opportunities that are occurring across today’s business, technology and cultural landscapes. Some large government projects like and NPR (National Population Register) are already using our infrastructure.

Hitachi Data Systems is already in talks with the government to provide data analytics solutions for better traffic management, faster crime prediction, efficient data centre management at the state-level and better healthcare management to raise life expectancy. Globally, industries are using our social innovation solutions to take advantage of the IoT.

Telecom Analytics – Network operators are using our tools to access real-time data analytics and identify potential problems before they affect their customers and deliver consistent service.

Public Safety – Our public safety solutions build safer societies and environments, respond enable quick response to situations and increase the effectiveness of limited workforces and funding.

Connected Health – Healthcare providers use our integrated care solutions, to aggregate patient data and access, as well as operational and financial data, to enable evidence-based medicine.

IT Analytics – Enterprises can transform machine data into actionable insights using a Cloud-based machine-to-machine analytics solution that enables IT teams to gain intelligence.

Incidentally, a UN State of the World Population report predicts that over 40 percent of India’s population would be living in the urban areas by 2030.

In this backdrop, the government came up with a plan to create 100 Smart Cities, and later the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme to be e“ffected in over 500 tier II and tier III cities. The announcements came much like hope of oxygen to a gasping man. Backing its words with action, it cleared Rs 1 lakh-crore to be spent over creating smarter cities, and then approved an initial investment of Rs 3,120 crore for boosting urban infrastructure in 102 cities across five states under AMRUT plan, in the first go. This funding under the AMRUT is meant for enhancing water supply, sewerage network, non-motorised transportation system and availability of public spaces.




Monica Malhotra Kandhari
Senior Director, MBD Group

The government’s pro-active push in digital age direction and the digital support offered across sectors is surely going to benefit millions of people. This can offer education skills as well as many technologies across a wide spectrum of users. It can enable many people in remote geographical locations to access mainstream education, skill development, facilities and communication.


  • There are always challenges one faces when trying to bring about change.
  • Resources and accessibility for digital technology in the country are still a challenge. We need mass produced and economical versions of laptops and tablets, better electricity cover as well as network connectivity. However, with the efforts of the present government these will surely be mitigated soon.
  • India is a diverse country. So, the integration of technology and languages is essential as it will need to be a multi-lingual digital programme. We have 250,000 gram panchayats and each will require broadband connectivity.
  • We also need unifi ed laws and statutes in place across the entire country.


  • The digital learning opportunity is huge in the education and skill development sector, as Indian students still looking for quality education resources.
  • We offer 360 degree education solutions ranging from textbooks, stationery, digital content, educational apps, ICT hardware, Vocational Courses etc. Our expertise lies into content development (varied languages) and delivery, be it digital or physical text books – we are progressing towards a digital world and most of our learning and teaching solutions are aligned accordingly.
  • We have also created an extensive Teacher Training programme under the banner of MBD Disha that offers capacity building programmes for teachers and covers entire gamut of training needs of the teachers and school administrators.

Amit Marwah
Head of Technology – India Region, Nokia Networks

Nokia believes that the Digital India initiative can make a great difference to the country right now. To accomplish a truly Digital India, the government must start by building on the infrastructure that is already in place, and integrating the right technology — to accelerate the delivery of services that create a more connected society. While India’s strengths in IT and growth in telecommunication sector are acknowledged, there is still a major gap in basic connectivity infrastructure such as Internet and broadband outreach and smartphone penetration. This can potentially be a major obstacle to fully realising the Digital India vision and that is where Nokia can use its experience and advanced solutions to help bridge the gap.


  • Broadband connectivity across urban and rural areas to enable eGovernance and eServices availability to all.
  • Connectivity along with smart applications will enable delivery of eServices and eGovernance to citizens and Internet of Things (IoT) eco system will play a key role to make this happen.
  • Nokia today runs the backbone of mobile broadband connectivity for close to 300 million or about 1/3rd of India’s mobile population. We continue to play a pivotal role in helping India evolve through generations of connectivity technologies.
  • Nokia believes that Big Data Analytics and automated network & service management along with security and privacy will help capitalise the power of IoT to help realise Digital India and Smart City objectives laid by the government. It also helps industries to become more effi cient, agile and real-time.
  • Creating the IoT will be the next big thing for the mobile ecosystem, especially for application in connected mobility, smart cities, healthcare industry and public safety areas.


Nokia, along with operator partners is working to leverage mobile subscriber location, usage & traffic, and demographic data to provide valuable insights and big data analytics under “Nokia Data Services”, which will be used by urban planners, retail, fi nance and banking, hospitality and other industries to provide smart city solutions.


Sanjeev Bobby Sarin
CEO & Founder, Ozone Networks

I believe Digital India is one of those visionary ideas that have the potential and depth to transform India. The plan is to establish a digital platform to digitally connect and deliver government programmes and services to individuals across India, alongside content and services user want to access.


  • With billions of devices to be connected with each other and the online healthcare and online retail spending expected to grow at a higher rate, the future poses a lots of opportunities and challenges in the digital space. There are undoubtedly a few challenges that need to be addressed if we are to achieve the Digital India goal, infrastructure, neutrality and security being the prime concern.
  • India will need massive data storage as all data need to be backed up at an alternate site. This will require huge investment to set up data centers in various parts of the country.
  • We need to encourage all service providers and partners to educate and embrace users to use the networks, and ensure they have a sustainable business model. All providers should get access equally to grow Digital India. If we are not inclusive, like other projects in other countries, the project will fail, and it’s too critical to fail.
  • India is a nation where we do not take security seriously which has left our IT infrastructure defenseless to security attack through cyber fraud etc. Securing the data for all the time is going to be a huge challenge, but we have talented engineers who I am sure can create an Indian solution to ensure our security.


  • The private sector sees lot of opportunities in the eGovernance space. Given that the goal of this project is to provide services in real time from online and mobile platforms, it opens doors for large number of IT industry players to develop platforms, which can help in providing government services and information to people in all parts of the country.
  • Connectivity or Internet has become more of an infrastructure requirement like road, water and electricity, so the need for Internet is going to be huge. We only have six percent population, which is connected today to a population of 1.27 bn. This leaves out a huge population of around 800-900 mn unconnected.
  • The government has pledged to connect India’s 250,000 village clusters, using WiFi for the ‘last mile’. We at Ozone have deployed 7000 WiFi zones in India; about 1500 are public hotspots, the rest are for enterprises like Macdonald’s, Haldiram and Subway who see value in providing free WiFi in their outlets. With the government’s focus on expanding digital services reach, there could be upwards of 2 million hotspots by 2020.

Boost to eGovernance

A prominent feature of a Smart City around the world is that they have used eGovernance as an effective tool to serve citizens better, re-engineer internal business processes, increase transparency, accountability and citizen participation and use resources in an environment-friendly manner. Even though, broadly speaking, eGovernance initiatives usually account for only 10-15 percent of the total investments, they are an essential part of the overall city architecture.

eGovernance also reduces the cost of governance substantially, as a number of countries have opted for centrally-hosted or Cloud- based platforms for ICT solutions with a view to minimising investments in hardware and digital infrastructure. As a developing country, it is desirable for India to adopt a centrally-hosted/Cloud- based solution to slash an avoidable expenditure, which is not possible in traditional cities.

Coming to the states in India, Maharashtra has been one of the early adopters of the concept of ICT-driven Smart City, and it had moved towards raising a high-tech city when hardly anyone had moved in the direction.

Digital Maharashtra

As the Union government launched the Smart Cities programme, it was lapped up by the Maharashtra Government. In a recent interview to Elets News Network (ENN), Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: “It (the Smart Cities programme) is being monitored by the Centre and will enter implementation stage in the coming months. For each of the 10 cities in Maharashtra that will be developed as a Smart City, I have appointed a senior bureaucrat as a mentor.

“Maharashtra is the most industrialised State in the country, with a vibrant IT economy witnessing increasing urbanisation, and it aspires to create sustainable and friendly urban spaces that integrate the use of technology, social media, community participation and eGovernance to make cities smarter – smart cities.”

Going a step further, the State has also undertaken a ‘Digital Maharashtra’ initiative. A senior official of the State told ENN that expressing his firm belief in technology as a driver of effi ciency, the Chief Minister has undertaken the programme. “Th ere are about 48 projects spanning across the departments within the government. Their progress is monitored on a regular basis and issues resolved to help aid speedy implementation.”

Rural empowerment

Similarly, ‘Digital Village’ programme of Maharashtra aims at rural empowerment. With its help, the government is making efforts to ensure better management of rural economy, provide opportunities at par with cities and bring them to the mainstream, so that they can enjoy the benefits of a progressing state.


Kushal Nahata
Co-Founder & CEO, FarEye

In today’s time when the world is moving from an eCommerce to an mCommerce platform, companies need advanced technology assistance and support. In a world of mobile workforce management, though mobility continues to form an integral part with a significant increase in the number of mobile workers but lack of a strong mobile strategy stops the companies in leveraging their best. However, the problem is this doesn’t stop the companies incorporating any mobile technology as it’s less expensive and easy to use.

According to an IDC report, Asia Pacific will see the largest increase in total number of mobile workers with 601.7 million mobile workers in 2010 and 838.7 million in 2015 leaving a huge space of opportunities for the mobile workforce players in investing in such a market.


  • The main offering of FarEye through its mobile workforce management platform helps organisations address challenges faced during field operations. It’s a solution to the most critical problems of manager i.e. real- time coordination with mobile workers, field jobs and customer requests. With FarEye, access to information becomes easy from any place and at any time.
  • FarEye increases the efficiency and effectiveness of operations by helping organisations to schedule jobs, track execution and evaluate the performance, all in real time. Real time coordination with mobile workforce, task automation, constant job updates, tracking workers, identification of best worker to perform a task, reduction in manual work, analytical reports, smarter decision making are among few benefits that FarEye gives to its clients.
  • Since organisations such as FarEye are not applications but mobility platforms, the mobility solutions provided by them seamlessly integrate into existing workflows of companies eliminating challenges that would have been faced otherwise. Furthermore, the outsourcing model gives the organisation an option of a flexi – operational budget involving a monthly fee depending on the licenses or consumption rather than huge capex investments.
  • FarEye also has a niche positioning in the industry with its cashless transactions enabler (wallets), network impact and data analytics to conquer the market by having superior functionalities. The firm is not restricted by the type of industry, function (sales, supply chain, services), employee strength or geography. There are 1.3 billion mobile workers out of which 85 percent are not using technology to help them work better. This is the huge opportunity that FarEye wants to tap.

Ramsunder Papineni
Regional Director – India & SAARC, FireEye

The digital age has ushered in new opportunities for economic growth. As the government, businesses and citizens evolve to take advantage of these opportunities, they face newer risks and threats from multiple sources.


  • The first is a threat to information that was hitherto recorded on physical files, such as land and tax records.
  • The second is related to compromising physical systems through cyber-attacks. We’ve seen how attackers can hijack control over critical infrastructure – such as power plants, electricity grids, even ATM machines –for profit or sabotage.


  • To fight against advanced threats, security professionals must reimagine their approach and create an adaptive architecture that protects against advanced attacks. Technology is key, but it’s not enough. First, you need to identify as early as possible that you’re being attacked, along with analytics and forensics to identify threats not just on what they look like, but how they behave.
  • Next you need intelligence; you need to be close to attacks – not just the ones you face every day, but the ones compromising other organisations across industries and geographies.
  • Lastly, you need experts who get into the mind of the attacker and understand their motivations.

FireEye can help CISOs re-imagine their security approach across the platform to protect multiple things, including endpoint, email, web, file and mobile security. Our technology, intelligence and expertise help organisations defend themselves against the most advanced threats in today’s cyber security landscape.

“From its planning and concept, it is indeed one of its kind in the country. Lot of work has gone into identifying the core indexes of the villages and then identifying a plan to help review and rejuvenate the rural ecosystem,” said Kaustubh Dhavse, Officer on Special Duty (OSD) to the Chief Minister.

Well, going by the belief that “when going gets tough, the smart get going”, one is sure to see more and more states adopting a similar aggression in their approach to become “smarter”, especially when there is a dispensation at the Centre that is ready for hand-holding to make India a smart country – both physically and digitally.

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