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'Technical Capacity Is The Biggest Challenge for Building Smart Cities'

An array of some brilliant people work in the Indian urban local bodies but the problem is that their horizon is limited

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Building a smart city requires smart people, equipment, and smart ways of doing things. However, transforming everything from traditional form to a new & smart version has its own opportunities and challenges. In the Indian scenario of implementing the mission of smart cities, an array of some very brilliant people work with the urban local bodies. But the only problem is that their whole horizon is very limited. Once they are exposed to some really cutting-edge technologies and expertise, then the growth and progress can be witnessed very clearly in the Smart Cities Mission.

Speaking at the 5th BW Smart Cities Conclave & Awards, Pramod G Kulkarni, Chief Engineer, KDMC Smart City said, “The biggest challenge we are facing is the technical capacity. It can be improved by utilizing the present knowledge as well as the experience. Fresh knowledge cannot prove to be as useful as the existing understanding of things. In order to address this issue, there should be a combination of knowledge and experience. Typical government sector knowledge is not sufficient to make a city smart so we need some resources from the market as well as government’s experienced people. This combination can make the project feasible and can make its implementation extremely easy. There has to be a combined approach of in-house as well as out-house expertise.”

As brilliant people are a part of the local bodies, these people must be well aware of the local conditions and they must also be using their expertise from a long period of time. The only thing which is missing is broadening the horizons into the entire world. This is where they are getting lagged behind because they are implementing the projects in the traditional way from a long period of time.

Elaborating further on the technology side of the whole story of Smart Cities, Kunal Kumar, Commissioner, Pune Municipal Corporation said, “The more advanced technologies like AI and machine learning are the tech capabilities which need to be enhanced. I believe that we should urgently come up with a Smart Cities academy where engineers and officers are trained to think and work on completely different paradigms.”

Kumar goes on to include that Innovation hubs are also required in every state and city where local entrepreneurs, startups and other industry partners get to come and experience what is required by these cities. "innovation hubs for entrepreneurs and industry partners can help them start rolling out their research and development accordingly. It is very important that we do this virtually as well as it is already performed on physical platforms. It can be a very visible platform where we can interact with entrepreneurs of the industry."

On the contrary, when questioned on the need to build technology capabilities, Kumar explained that there is a need to understand that India is currently struggling with human resources." For instance, if we have a very robust camera system for surveillance or system for street lights but there is not enough backend human resource to be able to use that data which is being provided by the system to take intelligent decisions in time then the purpose of the entire smart system is defeated." he said. So there are a lot of new gateways which are getting opened up by including smartness in the cities across the world now.It also includes the component of AI. Wherein at least 80-90 per cent of the decisions are taken by Artificial Intelligence only and the remaining is then escalated to a set of human individuals.

B. N. Pani, Commissioner, Rajkot Municipal Corporation shed light on the government’s advancements in AI technology. He mentioned that Rajkot Municipal Corporation has recently started a chatbot project on its website. According to him, the chatbot proves to be very viable where one can ask as many questions as wished and get all the answers. Question ranging from government schemes to property tax details can be answered immediately if asked. "It works as Siri of Smart City just like SIRI of iOS. Rajkot Municipal Corporation’s website is the first website which has the chatbot system and the robot is trained to answer all questions. Interestingly, we have been able to implement this particular technology without spending a penny as we found a talented boy through a hackathon which was held by the corporation. The talent is already there in the system, we just need to utilize it." he said.


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