As an immediate response to COVID-19, several smart cities leveraged smart solutions and facilities that were implemented as part of the 100 smart cities programme. Deloitte, in its recent report, “India Smart Cities’ COVID-19 Response”, highlights that the tactical use of Integrated Command and Control Centers (ICCCs), coupled with data analysis seen to have enabled effective governance and administration to control COVID-19 and put in place a disaster response and recovery strategy.
This approach also highlighted the fact that data crunching and smart technology could help cities and their administrations take a proactive approach through evidence-based urban governance. Whether aligning the COVID-19 response strategy, mapping the population to provide effective ration delivery to the poor and targeted beneficiaries, or deploying resources with a proper objective in mind, the central government’s smart cities programme is seen to have come in handy in driving a forceful response for the pandemic.
Sharing his experience, Anindya Mallick, Partner, Deloitte India, said, “The smart cities across the country seem to have taken this pandemic as an opportunity to innovate, learn, collaborate, and find ways to respond to the crisis. Smart use of technology remains the key takeaway in fighting a global crisis of this nature. The integration of COVID-19-related services and other essential municipal services through an integrated platform has led to efficient and effective inter-departmental coordination and data-driven decision making by city administrators”.
As the pandemic broke out, the central government took several measures to contain the spread of the virus in the country. Some of the key among them being the following:
- Imposing a countrywide lockdown.
- Tracking and tracing COVID-19 patients.
- Augmenting and strengthening the healthcare system to manage testing, quarantine, and hospitalisation of cases.
- Announcing a fiscal stimulus package to help the economically vulnerable sections of the population and businesses impacted on account of the pandemic.
At the same time, about 45 cities across the country converted their ICCCs to COVID-19 war rooms to monitor the city-level emergency response, including effective implementation of the lockdown. Some key initiatives undertaken by smart cities included the following:
1. Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) as a Covid-19 war room
- Monitoring activities across the city to manage the lockdown, identifying incidences of the violation, and taking responsive actions for enforcement
- Tracing and tracking suspected and positive cases, enforcing quarantine protocols and facilitating the treatment of those affected, developing and launching a citizen app for assessing, tracking, and tracing suspected and positive cases
- Generating awareness and disseminating information about the pandemic and the measures taken by the city administration to enable citizen’s health, safety, and access to essential goods and services
- Operating 24x7 city helplines and citizen grievance redress system and leveraging the facilities for telemedicine consultations, emergency response, etc.
- Developing a GIS-based COVID-19 tracker dashboard demonstrating various key parameters including disease hot spots and heat maps to provide information on the number of positive cases, recovered patients, daily case count, trends, age groups affected, etc. for data-driven decision making and predictive analysis of likely hotspots.
2. Managing the lockdown – social inclusion Developing mechanisms for identifying those who are in need of food and shelter along with their locations in the city
- Setting up food banks/ canteens with support from civil societies/ NGOs, local businesses, volunteers to provide cooked food to the needy
- Creation of food control rooms to monitor the preparation and distribution of cooked and dry/ packaged food to various localities around the city
- Ensuring migrant labour/ homeless are accommodated along with arrangements for food and health care facilities.
3. Managing the lockdown – doorstep delivery of essentials Facilitating the uninterrupted supply of essential items—their transportation, storage, and delivery across the city by creating a strong supply chain
- Setting up of food supply control rooms to track and manage the doorstep delivery of essentials
- Establishing web portals to provide information on the list of ward-wise vendors for doorstep delivery of essentials including groceries, vegetables, fruits, and medicine
- Issuing “Essential Service Passes” and separate ID cards for COVID-19 volunteers using citizen portals and mobile apps