A smart, quick fix to kick start Smart Cities in India
The Prime Minister’s pet product, the Smart City Mission, is a revolutionary initiative to transform cities, the way it has never been attempted before.
Some of the critical aspects of Smart City projects include:
- There’s a primary focus on brown-field projects, not green-field, with an objective to transform the lives of people as and where they live;
- It covers cities of all kinds, not necessarily large cities/metros, with a focus on countrywide coverage;
- The Mission will focus on basics like mobility, sanitation, housing and inclusiveness. It will make governance citizen-friendly and cost-effective in more than one way, making today’s cities better liveable for future generations.
The tech edge
For cities to be ‘smart’, the role of technology becomes far more significant in more than one way. NASSCOM has estimated that the role of technology in the Smart City initiative is more than 15 per cent unlike most other reform projects.
The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) has conceptualised a definition and framework for Smart Cities, and the industry has a key role to play in the entire Smart City project conceptualisation, through implementation and management.
I would like to draw attention to possibly one of the most critical aspects of the Smart City journey — what can be done as a parallel activity without much financial investment or major reform process. That said, it would seriously take some time before the effect of the Smart City initiatives can be seen on the ground.
I am proposing an initiative called ‘Lawlessness to Lawfulness’.
Our country, states, and cities have a number of rules and regulations. However, lack of proper and effective implementation of these rules and laws has caused real havoc and damaged the cities. It has made cities currently unliveable and clearly choked the expansion for the future. The infrastructure in metros and major cities typically cannot be expanded horizontally. Vertical expansion has begun in a small way in a few cities.
I would like to propose that cities, states, and governments can focus on lawfulness as a parallel act while new schemes, programmes and initiatives are being conceived. This will not require any procurement process and financial involvement.
All selected and in-queue Smart Cities can identify their petty challenges, prioritise among the top three categories (‘Critical’, ‘Important’, and ‘Good to have’) and create a clear roadmap with an activity-responsibility-timeline matrix. This activity will bring concerned stakeholders on board, and can put the Smart City project in motion.
Most of these activities can be done without much effort. While some would require integrated planning across departments and arriving at a mutually agreed plan, it is not a matter of choice. These are some of the must-do activities, else they will continue to grow like a cancer in civic society.
Though the activity is easier said than done, we have seen many such initiatives rolled out by governments. The only criterion is the commitment towards the goal.
If these objectives are “Must achieve”, before the second round of funding is released for Smart Cities, we can guarantee that we are treading on the right path.
By Sudhir Aggarwal, Vice President & Head - Government Relations, Thomson Reuters South Asia Pvt Ltd.