Assessment and Estimation of the Smart Cities Mission

While, it is true that a lot remains to be done to make the Smart Cities Mission a success, it can be safely said that India is making a genuine progress, albeit gradually, but efficiently.

After coming to power, one of the first promises by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the citizens of India was the development of smart cities. On June 25, 2015, he launched the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ with the aim to boost the economic growth of the country, to be achieved by encouraging development at grassroot level.  With the focus on building a sustainable development model, the Smart Cities Mission strategy is as following:

  • Development of Pan cities, wherein at least one Smart Solution is applied city-wide
  • Step-by-step development of areas based on a three-fold model : 
  • Retrofitting,
  • Redevelopment,
  • Greenfield.

While retrofitting and reconstruction will focus on transforming existing regions (including slums) into planned structures, greenfield primarily refers to the creation of new areas around cities that can accommodate the increasing population in the urban spaces. Under the Smart Cities Mission, 100 smart cities are supposed to be created throughout the country within a timespan of five years (FY 2015-16 to FY 2019-20), which will be an inspiration to all other cities in the country. The smart city models will act like a “lighthouse” for aspiring cities, an example that can be replicated both within and outside the bounds of the Smart Cities.

Impact of Smart Cities on its Stakeholders

The Indian Cabinet has allotted a sum of ₹98,000 crore for the development of 100 Smart Cities and redevelopment of 500 cities across the country. The first batch of twenty cities that were selected under the first round of All India City Challenge competition as of January 1, 2016, was termed as the ‘Lighthouse Cities.’ Each of these twenty cities were to be provided a sum of ₹200 crore during FY 2015-16, followed by ₹100 crore per year for the next three years. 

Crucial Projects under the Mission

The Smart Cities Mission encompasses many pivotal projects under its canvas. These include the City Wise Projects under the Mission, open spaces and riverfront development in SCPs of 60 Smart Cities; and affordable housing projects in SCPs of 60 Smart Cities.

Till date, the number of winning proposals is 99 and the total urban population positively impacted through this scheme is 99,486,840. Among the cities that have gotten their smart city projects approved, New Delhi leads the chart with twenty-three completed projects, backed by Varanasi and Raipur with sixteen and ten completed projects respectively. 

Smart Cities around the World

While talking about the potential of smart cities in India, one must look around for global context. Any list of successful case studies of smart cities must begin with the city of Columbus, Ohio, which won a $40 million in Smart City Challenge.

Their proposal includes key infrastructure and safety points: from installing street-side mobility kiosks, to setting up a new bus rapid transit system, improve access to healthcare for traditionally underserved areas and neighbourhoods, and smart lighting to increase safety for pedestrians. Columbus executives have also pledged to drive more electric vehicles to improve the city’s carbon footprint.

Another excellent example of technology in action to make cities smarter is Buenos Aires. Overwhelmed with city maintenance complaints that they received from the citizens (more than 30,000 every month), the Environment and Public Spaces Ministry of the City Government of Buenos Aires (GCBA) decided that it was time to invest in a modern approach to better address issues in public administration.

Now, its citizens complain about an uncovered manhole on twitter to the ministry, which fixes it 72-96 hours. The city also introduced modern LED technology in its 91,000 public street lights. The best part? Each light in this LED connects to a central system and provides real-time insight into broken lights, power outages, and vandalism. Because Buenos Aires is prone to frequent flooding, the administration took a bold step to automate maintenance on its 1,500 km of drainage pipes.

This new system goes a step further: now the 400 trucks that are responsible for cleaning the city each day work at maximum capacity. These sensors can also, to a certain extent, predict flooding and notify its residents timely. 

These two case studies make it abundantly clear that the concept of a “Smart City” is not just a technology concept; but, it is a political challenge that grapples with the problem of adapting powerful economic and social forces of our time to the needs of the places where a large chunk of humanity lives. 

What Can We Look Forward to in the Future?

The futuristic world of flying cars, buzzing drones, and automated cars is closer than we think. Our society today is increasingly relying on convenience-based, on-demand services for daily tasks like ordering a meal, shopping for groceries, or transportation from point A to B. As per a research, more than 22.4 million consumers currently use on-demand services and researchers believe that by 2020, almost one in five U.S. workers (the equivalent of 31 million people) will rely on the gig economy for employment.

Companies like Uber, Waymo, Amazon, Tesla are already testing futuristic, IoT-driven technologies that have the potential to change the world, making life easier and more immediate. The innovative retail giant Amazon has been publicly testing drones for package delivery, even filing a patent for a drone hive to accommodate and optimize deliveries in urban areas.

While, it is true that a lot remains to be done to make the Smart Cities Mission a success, it can be safely said that India is making a genuine progress, albeit gradually, but efficiently. The future of Indian Smart Cities looks bright and is expected to include various necessary changes such as encouraging IoT, AI, and cognitive computing; enhanced data connectivity; improved cybersecurity; integrated energy storage for renewables; incorporation of drones and blockchain in the system, to name a few. These things are the essence of Smart Cities whose aim is to make life much more convenient and comfortable for its denizens. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house