Bhubaneshwar leveraging Digital Platform to ensure Inclusive Sustainable Cities

The city ranked 13th in the Global Smart Cities envisaging unique parameters like child-friendliness and inclusiveness of all ULB’s in its territory. “The Bhubaneswar’s Smart City Proposal mainly revolves around people of Bhubaneswar and not just focuses on the physical (infra) development of the city. We believe this is a key differentiator from rest of the cities, that we keep people at the center of the development and build the projects that are most essential to the people”, says Vineel Krishna, CEO, Bhubaneshwar Smart Cities Limited in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW SmartCities World.

How do you gauge the developments that happened in Bhubaneswar Smart City?

Bhubaneswar smart city has become a lighthouse smart city owing to its participative decision making, all the visions and strategic goals have been defined keeping in view the citizens at the center. A number of infrastructural developments, technological developments have taken place. Adaptive traffic signals, Common Payment Card System (CPCS) and Smart Solutions Project in the technology domain and retrofitting of Bhubaneswar public spaces to make it more accessible and user-friendly has been implemented. Bhubaneswar has also taken various measures to empower the lower strata of society by various projects and campaigns.  Bhubaneswar envisages gauging its smart city based on the various key performance indicators of ISO 37120 and other parameters broadly covering - Service Performance, Social Performance, Environmental Performance, Economic Performance.

Recently, Bhubaneswar made it to the global smart city list as the only Indian smart city. Would you please enlighten us on the X-factor that enabled this massive achievement?

The Bhubaneswar’s Smart City Proposal mainly revolves around people of Bhubaneswar and not just focuses on the physical (infra) development of the city. We believe this is a key differentiator from rest of the cities, that we keep people at the center of the development and build the projects that are most essential to the people. The unique institutional framework adopted by the city makes it possible to ensure the seamless integration between various city and  state level agencies to carry out implementation and ensure enforcement during the operations. 

Bhubaneswar has ranked 13th in the global smart city parameters. What are the key features of safety and surveillance in Bhubaneswar Smart City that is keeping it ahead of all its counterparts? Is there any deployment of latest technology to ensure this? Please elaborate.

Bhubaneswar has envisaged livable and child-friendly cities as one of the visions. In its bid to meet the vision several, safety and surveillance features have been implemented across the city. Surveillance through fixed and PTZ  CCTV cameras at important junctions of the city is being monitored 24X7 in the state of art Bhubaneswar Command and Control center,  have ensured that surveillance is done 24X7 instilling confidence among the citizens. Surveillance has been ensured in the local transport through the installation of cameras in government buses.  Emergency Call Buttons installed in digital kiosks with features of two way communication and a PTZ camera for knowing the exact satiation of the complainant, a 24X7 toll free helpline number has been provided to register any complaints and grievances, city mobile application has feature of providing alert to police, fire, and hospitals with the push of a button in the case of emergency. Pelican Signals have been installed at all major crossing near to schools, colleges, and universities to ensure the safety of the citizens while crossing the road. All these with a complete incident and response management module ensures that the safety of the citizens is taken into priority.

What initiatives are taken by the SPV to leverage last mile connectivity with respect to Digital India for Smart City?

Common Payment Card System has been introduced in Bhubaneswar to ensure last mile connectivity with respect to digital payment. CPCS is a public-private partnership program with ICICI as the private partner, under this program pre-paid debit card is being issued under the name of Odyssey card which can be used for paying all municipal utility bills, transit facilities and for retail payment at the various centers. It has been envisaged to provide POS (Point of Sale) machines at a distance of 500 m to ensure ease of access for digital payments. To further enhance this all municipal services have been made online and the payment can be done through any payment method including Odyssey card. This along with promotions and tie up with retail will help build a cashless environment and ensure last mile connectivity of digital payment. Also, our key initiative of e-Office which is the transformation of governance to the digital platform is successfully implemented by SAP for us.

How do you think the SPV is ensuring a socially smart city in Bhubaneswar? Would you elaborate on this? 

Apart from technological and infrastructural changes being made to the city, social projects form an important part of the initiative. These projects are structured in a manner to induce social equity, equal accessibility and enhanced economic opportunities to the citizens. These interventions are being implemented through capacity building and awareness creation on issues of social importance. On a broad scale, the projects of social intervention include –

Project Kusum comprising of early childhood education and digital education for children of all segments (forming part of smart solutions and mission awaas modules)

Project Kutumb relating to the development of social equity center to cater to the needs of homeless and other residents, migrants through the provision of food, water, and shelter (forming part of the social equity center)

Project Swabhimaan aimed towards economic opportunity improvements for slum dwellers, street hawkers through micro-business incubation, skill development and quality improvement programs

A socially smart project at the level of 100 slums and 80 educational institutes of Bhubaneswar wherein interventions are being held with youths to create awareness on gender-based violence, legal provisions, linking youths with skill programs and making efforts to bridge gaps existing between various schemes and provisions. 

The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs ( MoHUA) has recently awarded Bhubaneswar Smart City Limited ( BSCL) for being the best digital innovator. What parameters had the SPV focused on achieving this benchmark? Please elaborate.

Bhubaneswar recently received the Digital Payment Innovator award, SPV while applying for this award considered several parameters such as the percentage of online payment for municipal services, electricity bills, water payment. It was also taken into consideration the percentage of digital transactions the various Bhubaneswar city agencies do in a year. Common Payment Card System was an important parameter and its implementation and marketing in innovative ways was the main differentiator with other agencies and helped Bhubaneswar win the digital payment innovator award.

The city is known for one of the best mining resource hubs. Is this factor adding for the city to keep pace in the smart city race too?

The Vision for Bhubaneswar’s Smart City Proposal (SCP) is based on 5 major components – transit-oriented city, livable city, child-friendly city, eco-city and regional economic center. Thus in addition to making the city smart, sustainable and people-centric, Bhubaneswar also aims to be the center of economic activities in the state and the presence of mining resources further supplements these efforts. As a part of the Smart city proposal, the city is slated to prepare an economic development plan for the region to ensure the holistic development of the city and the region. 

How is tourism in the city adding value for the city’s transformation into a smart city and adding revenue also?

Bhubaneswar is also known as the temple city and houses a rich culture and heritage. It is the only city having more than 700 heritage monuments (spanning over centuries with a wide range of architecture styles), reserved forests, and several museums all within the city limits. With this and many more nearby tourist attractions, Bhubaneswar is one of the most sought after tourist destinations in eastern India. The efforts put in by the Smart City SPV supplement the efforts made by the Department of Tourism. Specific services are launched by the SPV to facilitate not only citizens but also the tourists, such as web portal, which gives city-related information to the denizens and visitors both. Public Utility services such as Bus facilities, Public bicycle sharing systems, Drinking water ATMs, E-Toilets, etc. are planned to keep in view the increasing tourist inflow and has certainly helped the city transform in many ways.