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What's so smart about a Smart City?

19 Nov 2014
By Team Doshi


Interest has revived again in Smart Cities in India since the start of the current fiscal and Budget 2014.

The idea

Our very tech-savvy prime minister, Narendra Modi’s vision is to see at least 100 smart cities in India by 2030. The concept of smart cities is not new – it’s been around in other countries for some time now – the Dubai Internet City and Kyoto in Japan are just two examples. Speaking especially about Kyoto, we see a true smart city that has managed to retain its cultural identity while achieving an impressive modernization.

What is a smart city?

  • A smart city is also known smarter city, intelligent city, digital city
  • It promotes the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs)
  • Engages with citizens to develop social and intellectual capital
  • Makes better use of hard infrastructure or physical capital
  • Reduces misuse of environmental capital
  • Encourages smart growth or sustainable economic development

Why do we need smart cities in India?

With the press on space in a city like Chennai, can you imagine large IT and manufacturing MNCs trying to establish a presence within the city – say on Anna Salai? There is the constraint of space, cost, pollution, etc., that would make it impossible for them to set up shop and create, say, an IT corridor like we have on OMR beyond south Chennai or, moving further west, building industrial estates such as that in Ekkaduthangal.

Twenty-five years ago, before FDI in India, it would have been difficult to visualise the kind of development we see today on OMR and beyond. Pockets of flourishing suburbs do exist around large cities and metros but these are largely residential due to zoning rules. Today, the areas located along OMR are perhaps the fastest growing ‘huburbs’ in Chennai, with better facilities, better connectivity and better environment-consciousness than could have been envisaged earlier.

Going forward

As India’s develops, people are beginning to move closer to the urban centres. The new middle class, with more disposable income, aspires to better living conditions. We need smart cities that can create a more effective urban system by using information and communication technologies to address such contemporary challenges and urban issues as:

  • housing
  • power
  • energy
  • transport
  • technology
  • education
  • green buildings
  • network and communication technology
  • job opportunities
  • poverty alleviation

What’s happening for southern India?

The government has already identified areas to set up smart cities along the Bangalore-Chennai and the Chennai-Vizag industrial corridors. Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, has announced that infrastructure and connectivity will be strengthened in existing cities to make them smarter, digitally-driven cities, with new satellite towns being developed around such urban centres.

Here’s looking forward to effective government policies to make smart cities a reality in India - cities that will be people-centric, knowledge clusters that make use of human, social and artificial intelligence in the most optimum manner possible.