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DataSmart Cities: Why and how India will become ‘smarter’

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For any country to grow, its cities play a major role.  India is no different. Besides being the hub of the country’s knowledge economy, its cities occupy the centre stage for socio-political deliberations too.  Needless to say, the Indian government, in 2015, launched its ‘Smart Cities Mission’ that aimed to transform urban management with latest digital technologies.

DataSmart cities are those that have successfully imbibed a culture of data awareness and data usage in its functioning. A smart city uses different types of Internet of things (IoT) sensors to collect data and then use it to manage its assets and resources efficiently. So, for the mission to be successful, every city ought to have a robust system of data that acts as a backbone.

The need of the hour!

Being a smart city essentially means availability of the right data, to the right people, at the right time, in order to solve urban roadblocks and challenges.  Therefore, for a city to work ‘smartly’, being  ‘DataSmart’ has become the need of the hour.  It only ensures complete and wise use of technology interventions and innovations. It also means intelligent use of data by cities in order to address complex urban problems related to mobility, management of water, waste, safety and security, energy, housing, education, health, among others.

How being ‘DataSmart’ helps?

A DataSmart city is always more efficient, accountable, and transparent when it comes to governance. It also encourages civic engagement and innovation in problem-solving.

Also Read: Smart Cities Mission Setting the Pace & Direction of Urban Development In India

How it works?

Major requirements that act as pillars to become DataSmart are:

  1. Institutional structures across all tiers of governance
  2. Planned policies and standards
  3. Technology platforms to implement planned policies

The first pillar includes identifying people and responsibilities that will help in implementation of data governance, on paper as well as in real.

The second fundamental revolves around creating a dynamic and strong model for data governance. While data is a key part of a smart city, its privacy, security and right use, are equally important. These pillars ensure just that.

The third pillar help cities adopt technological advancements and open data platforms.

These three pillars help in creation of open data culture further assisting greater data exchange. This in turn helps in building sustainable model for smart city solutions that help in better growth and development.

Where comes in Data Maturity Assessment Framework?

With everything planned and in place, one has to ensure the effective use of data by cities. This is where the Data Maturity Assessment Framework plays its part. The DataSmart Cities lay down the system for this framework to be implemented through a self-assessment. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) sets the detailed guidelines for the Data Maturity Assessment.

The main objective of the programme is to encourage cities assess their readiness against the three foundational pillars mentioned above, while also analyzing the process and targets or outcomes in the regard.

The Data Maturity Assessment Framework and associated evaluation is intended to be carried out in the cities at a regular frequency, to allow cities to increase their understanding of data governance principles. This will further lead to effective decision making and citizen-centric delivery of services. The framework will also help in furthering innovation, collaboration, co-creation and research.

Roadmap ahead

In the initial phase, the Smart Cities Mission Directorate plans to execute and implement the DataSmart Cities strategy for the existing 100 Smart Cities through their Urban Local Bodies (ULB). All these cities have appointed Chief Data Officers and have collated more than 2000 data sets.

Taking the plan further, these cities will then become torch bearers for remaining cities and towns to help and inspire them adopt data-driven governance and become ‘smarter’.

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