You have heard the term ‘smart city being’ discussed with intense intention. You have come across the term while reading a newspaper, on a signboard, on tarp sheets hanging loosely from tall buildings, on skeletal compound walls made of long steel sheets lining massive apartments yet to be built, in Modi’s speeches and so on. Question why this is important! Arouse curiosity!
One can define a smart city simply – tackling inefficiency with information. With a consensus of information comes the knowledge of how to solve problems proficiently. In this regard, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) play a significant role in managing assets of a city. The important thing however, is to do it securely, over a safe network.
But what exactly does a city need to be labelled “smart”? How can it reach an efficiency level that can be likened to a smart city?
- Going digital – The main purpose of going digital would be to create an environment where citizens share information easily and are interconnected. Ideally, this would be a flexible, service-oriented data structure that would be based on the requirements of the industry and cater to the needs of the government, citizens and businesses.
- Building a virtual space – Cities are a geographical entity of people, activities and services. A current boom on the web indicates that’s new cities are being formed in cyberspace, popularly known as virtual cities. Early adopters have been predicting our collective slide into a virtual reality-enhanced world for years. Currently, citizens use this platform as a reflection of their real lives, carrying out everyday activities like shopping, relaxing and other social activities.
- Information centric – A smart city would be significantly successful with real time combating of problems and this is only possible when technology gives access to public information. It seems to arise as an important link between the government and citizens.
- Relentlessly intelligent – One of the most significant features of a smart city would be constant evolution in technology. This must be supported by research and technological innovation linked with electronic, mechanical and telecommunications technology to keep technology updated.
- Creative license – Granting creative fraternity to a city increases individuals’ capacity to grow as an asset. The concept of encouraging a mix of education and training, business and commerce and culture and the arts builds robust social capital that is reliable and indispensable.
- Smart learning – Skilling the workforce emerges as an important aspect of building a smart city. Increasing competitiveness of citizens in the global knowledge economy, and being proactive is how one will be relevant.
- Institutional framework – A smart city needs to be governed by individuals who understand the importance of the influence of technology in creating a smart city and community. Essentially needed is a partnership between a governmental organisation and citizens for successful governance.
While several concepts of a smart city rely heavily on technology, it isn’t and end in itself, but only an end to a means. The real concept of a smart city is realising that a link between technology and infrastructure, human resources, and governance push for a sustainable growth module that can enhance the standard of living.
While India hasn’t been at the forefront of every progressive step taken in history, it has been quick to catch up. This holds true even for its Smart City Mission. The SCM commenced in 2015 as an initiative by the present government to boost economic growth and improve the general quality of the life of its citizens through AMRUT (Atal Mission for Rejuvenation, and Urban Transformation) meant to provide basic services, ICT and IOT, and enabling local development.
The Smart City Mission focuses on four pillars of comprehensive development-institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. These well thought out, focused and essential steps by the Indian government are heralded as the 10 commandments of a smart city in India.
In addition to this, the Smart City Mission visualizes that in the imagination of any city dweller in India, the picture of a smart city contains a wish list of infrastructure and services that describes his or her level of aspiration. To provide for the aspirations and needs of the citizens, urban planners ideally aim at developing the entire urban eco-system. The Indian government, taking into consideration that the country can only be transformed successfully if done right, is working towards the goal of developing comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, “adding on layers of ‘smartness’”.
With intelligent transportation systems in transit-oriented habitats, smart grids for renewable power, robust social infrastructure, ICT and IoT, safety and security, financial sustainability and other aspects with the help of meaningful private-public partnerships, it is possible that India will build a sturdy and realistic smart city model that will not only be implemented but will also sustain. With the centre and state governments investing heavily into the Smart City Mission and its counterparts, India is well on its way to being commanded by future generations ready to take over from individuals of today.