Creating Smart Cities in India is no 'rocket science', says IBM India chief

IBM

Though the Indian government is actively pushing the smart cities initiative and has allocated Rs 98,000 crore for '100 Smart Cities Mission' in India. Clearly it is not enough, agrees Pratap Padode, founder and director of Smart Cities Council India. It is imperative to collaborative, building Public-Private Partnerships, and a lot is dependent on the private players, if they are willing to take risk – to invest and collaborate.

India's Infrastructure and issues in Implementing Globally Accepted Smart Cities Models.

India is one of the high-potential markets for smart cities, with lot of urban areas already showing rapidly increasing technology deployment.

Through efforts like Digital India campaign, government is trying to create a seamless communication system between the government and citizens, all the way to gram panchayats and the citizens of the remotest areas.

Prashant Pradhan, Director, Smarter Planet Business, IBM India and South Asia, in an interview to Business Insider India said that the biggest challenge and the first step towards creating smart cities in India is digitization.

Process discipline is essential in disaster management for a company as well as city, but memorisation of all those protocols by the user is the hardest part. This can be achieved through visualisation through video analytics.

Lastly, building institutional capacity is paramount, which would need time and resources to train and develop functional experts. 

IBM's Perception and Contribution in India's Smart Cities Mission 

As Pratap Padode inferred the allocated government funds are not enough, and private sector leaders have to invest and get involved in this process.

IBM has done over 2,500 Smart Cities projects around the world and they are bringing this experience to India programme. IBM is working closely with the Indian government on institutional capacity building. IBM believes that most of the 'Smart Cities' projects are self-sustaining.

Efficiency of the existing infrastructure can be increased with much trivial investment, such as sensors and apps. He gave an example of one of the cities in the US, where using sensor analytics identified main blocking area and opened up 10 million additional capacity of water in the existing sewerage system saving $ 100 million investment cost.

He gave another example of citizen participation, the city of Sao Paolo in Brazil understood civic issues by developing a mobile app for citizens to click a photo of waste, sewage, traffic, potholes, street lights issues, etc and send it to the city. Within 3 hours, 4 sq kilometres area of the city was mapped using geo coding for each and every civic issue of that area without spending a penny.

Challenges in scalability of IBM's solutions

There is no universal solution for 'Smart Cities'. Each city has own characteristics and problems, and it should focus on local contextual solutions, building on the best the city has to offer.

IBM studied Vishakhpatnam post Hudhud. When Hudhud came there wasn't that much loss of lives but there was lot of loss of livelihoods. The city has a vibrant MSME sector.

IBM proposed that the first focus should be making Vizag resilient with integrated command and control systems. IBM identified lack of adherence to building codes is another major reason of such massive damage, and proposed to have strong norms and implementation strategies to protect the city from these climate related disasters, like other coastal cities for e.g.  New York.

Also read:

16 cities win IBM brainpower; three are in India

IBM: A Smarter Planet One City at a Time - Q&A with Rich Michos