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Smart cities will need smarter administration

Smart cities will need smarter administration

A smart city´s command centre will manage everyday services such as power distribution, water and solid waste management.
The government at the Centre seems to have hit bull´s eye when it announced that it will be building 100 smart cities. Now, the number 100 might be ambitious, but these aren´t new cities being built from scratch but old cities being retrofitted so it´s doable as long as we have a plan.

All these cities will have integrated transport systems including Metros, trams, modern bus systems and bicycle tracks that will be made more robust with the help of satellite mapping, efficient garbage disposal and solid waste management. A smart city could be defined as city which uses information and communications technology to ensure that both its critical infrastructure and public services and components it offers are more interactive and efficient and that citizens can become more aware of them. On a practical basis, a smart city would be the one built with a robust and interactive information and communication technology infrastructure (ICT). Such a city will have an ICT infrastructure spread across the city with the command centre managing everyday services such as power distribution, water and solid waste management. The command centre will also be capable of controlling the traffic movement within city limits.

A good thing is that the government knows it needs help if this plan has to be a success. And that help needs to come from the right quarters. So we have the US saying it will be the lead partner to transform Visakhapatnam, Allahabad and Ajmer into smart cities.

The government has said these smart cities will be built under the Public-Private Partnership model. The private sector will have a key role to play in this development. So how does the (tentative) definition of smart cities in India differ from those suggest by governments globally? Globally, the development of smart cities takes place in two phases. First new town planning strategies are generated to attain a higher level of wellbeing and environmental integration of urban spaces. This is done by detecting town planning problems and resolving them. Then different elements of a city are connected by specific measures integrating town planning and an information and com¡communication technology (ICT) network for various services. In the Indian context, urban planning has often missed the core elements of urban design such as public services, transport and affordable housing. Thankfully, the new smart cities as planned by the government will not have all these complexities and management issues.

Also, the city will become better when its backend services (those that we usually don´t see) improve and get integrated into the larger plan. Information based systems such as such as instant consumption monitoring devices, capacity sensors for solid and water waste management, automated system for watering parks and gardens, monitoring air quality will improve quality of life as well. Again, e-administration portals for various services will also increase citizen participation. But sometimes it is easy for the common man to misunderstand a smart city as one that merely provides facilities such as Wi-Fi to him. That does make his life easy but there is a whole lot more that a smart city can do for him.

While most of the basic elements of a city remain the same, there is a very specific focus on buildings, their energy efficiency and improving the ease of services and mobility. In mobility, for instance, the idea is to have an efficient and safe infrastructure and transport system that will be enabled with information-based services such as real time traffic information, information on areas where building work is going on and the introduction of timing in traffic lights. There should be dynamic information for public transport and online payment gateways for private transport.

And so will According to RICS, smart cities should include features of e-governance too.

This article has been authored by Sachin Sandhir, Global Managing Director – Emerging Business and MD – South Asia, RICS.

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