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Cities Need Better Projects, Focus On Real Work

Experts discuss the role of technologies and the nature of projects that best support the smart cities mission.

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Driven with the behemoth objective of building smart cities - the next generation of Indian cities - by building on easy-accessible and affordable infrastructure that facilitates better citizen-government engagement, it is inevitable to face obstacles along the way. With the Indian administration been historically known to be complex and challenging, tackling issues need expert insights and perspectives on the matter.       

With over ten years of experience working for the government, Astik Kumar Pandey, Commissioner, Aurangabad Municipal Corporation speaking at a panel discussion on building smart cities of the future, shared that the language of communication is the first level of challenge that is faced. He declared, “We use a lot of jargon and forget the real work.” He asked private stakeholders to focus on the real work and hence the need to present the ideas correctly to political leaders and ordinary citizens. In his opinion, the focus on water, garbage, roads, government-citizen interaction, and transportation is essential. 

What is the role of technology in this context?

Technology, Pandey said, will bring effectiveness, transparency, and efficiency to the work. He shared an example: he had used a lot of apps on-ground to improve better service delivery but failed though was successful with the simple use of Whatsapp. What he meant was the use of technology should be seen as an enabler of providing services and not should be the main focus. 

Giving his view on the role of technologies, Nitin Mahajan, G.M, BSNL Nasik stated that IT-enabled technologies and IT infrastructure are critical for developing smart cities. He elaborated that we cannot do anything with the copper cables, for instance, we need optical fibers, which allows for 1 Gbps speed of the connection. He appreciated the suggestions given by Pandey on the use of Whatsapp at the ground level, as it’s not possible to download all the apps. He added to the discussion on challenges that the advent of technologies has brought many pitfalls; necessary precautions and proper security should be corroborated alongside the technology use.  

Taking the discussion further, Shailendra Dixit, Head of Solutions, IoT India, Tata Communications shared that the hurdle is there are millions of devices available but the challenge is to send the data to a command center. Dixit informed that they are working towards a project in Nasik where every light in the city will be controlled from a common command center. 

The smart cities mission was started by the union government with developing 100 smart cities to build better infrastructure and housing for all. In the budget 2020, the Finance Minister has included five more cities into the mission. With the limited resources available, there need to be certain criteria as per which projects should be enacted that best helps in city building. What are they?

Manish Misra, PRO, Gwalior Smart City Development Corporation informed four the key criteria for projects to work in smart cities: what is the specific use, the variables should be measurable, the targets of the project should be achievable/doable, should relate to the lives of citizens. 

“Are we touching the base with the beneficiaries,” Misra asks the critical question. He emphasized on the need to make sure whether the proper work has been done or not, the information has to be communicated. 

The above industry experts were presenting at the BW Businessworld organized 8th Smart Cities Conclave.

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smart cities indian cities union government