Smart cities are an engine for job creation and economic growth—countries like China and the UAE are betting big on them and have already dedicated billions of dollars to smart city projects. China, in fact, announced an $ 8 billion investment fund in smart cities last year. India needs to undertake similar measures to augment development and optimise public service delivery.
Going ahead, the contribution of cities to India's GDP will only increase. If cities accounted for 58% of the national GDP in 2008, this figure is expected to go up to 70% by 2030. To adequately leverage this, India needs liveable and productive cities.
The whole purpose of making smart cities is to make people more efficient and globally competitive. We need to look into the character of the city and identify core economic activity that can be further developed with the help of technology and improvement in urban infrastructure.
For example, Bengaluru can create a lot of jobs in IT, telecom or the technology-driven services sector. However, for this we will need to figure out how to improve urban infrastructure so the city becomes globally competitive and can create more jobs.
We have to look for the gaps in urban infrastructure. A city might require a particular kind of transportation system or a certain kind of effluent treatment system. These must be created to deliver these cities in a smart way.
A positive impact of the smart city and Digital India projects is job creation, which will be, needless to say, 'smart'. While it is difficult to give an estimate of jobs that will be generated and the reduction in labour migration, one can confidently say that even if work begins on five to 10 smart cities over the next two years, we would have created a favourable ecosystem for thousands of jobs.
This will be more inclined towards white-collar jobs as IT professionals will be in greater demand, IT infrastructure being the backbone of any smart city. Data analytics, programming, high-end consulting, system and network integration will be the order of the day and professionals and students in this area can expect better opportunities.
In a decade, over 50 billion devices will be connected through machine-to-machine communication and the Internet of Everything (IoE) will be a $1.5 trillion-a-year business globally.
There will be another $2 trillion annually in new services; within this market, the global urban services segment is estimated to be around $2 trillion in revenues and savings over the next decade. The Make in India initiative and smart cities initiative should be converged with cities becoming living labs for hardware, software and urban services developed and made in the country, thereby creating a base for economic generation.