ICT and Participatory Governance

Smart Cities require a pragmatic approach to technological development, powered by Information and Communication Technologies as an instrument for sustainable development

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A Smart City is one that uses information and communications technology (ICT) to make its critical infrastructure, components and utilities interactive and efficient. A city can be considered “smart” when its investment in human and social capital and communications infrastructure actively promotes sustainable economic development and a high quality of life, with wise management of natural resources via participatory government. A smart, safe city is an integrated solution to challenges faced by cities worldwide. Smarter, safer cities focus on three areas of expertise. The first is leveraging information to make better decisions. Compact, with fairly good ‘people density’, such cities have well-connected transport infrastructure with optimal energy and water use. The second is anticipating and resolving problems proactively. Advanced analytics can help city leaders discover patterns and trends in structured or unstructured data efficiently and cost effectively. The third is coordinating resources to operate efficiently. The complexity and interconnectedness of city systems can often mask inefficiencies that can be easily addressed by sharing information and collaborating in real time. Urban Governance & Economic Development A Smart City should enable participatory governance with widespread access to ICT by improving public engagement and institutional responsiveness. ‘Connected’ citizens provide feedback, register grievances quicker, thereby improving public accountability and service quality. By maintaining anonymity of users, ICT can eliminate entry barriers for all. It can help increase transparency and reduce corruption with the help of real-time monitoring of systems and resources and simplify governance by eliminating intermediaries. By conveniently establishing municipality e-services such as e-registration or e-permit, it can enhance the convenience of establishing urban businesses. Smart Cities can also provide government or municipal councils with effective revenue collection mechanisms by improving and streamlining tax collection, with e-filing systems that are already prevalent. Automation eases monitoring of revenue collections, improving overall compliance and regulation. Registering local businesses and compiling land records via ICT boosts tax and revenue collections by blocking avenues for graft. ICT can also provide detailed, real-time property information on urban housing projects – including on existing stock, upcoming projects, time series like price and rental indices and land transaction details. By conducting regular surveys and ICT-based monitoring, it is possible to cross-check and validate new encroachments, distinguish between authorised or illegal construction and lead to faster, transparent approval processes for residential and commercial projects. A Smart City governance framework can extend public & social services by providing mobile phone-based health applications to improve access of the urban poor to municipal medical services. Access to phone banking, registration or municipal permits can help reduce transport costs for the poor. Information collection, management and sharing via ICT can help cities respond to crime and other emergency situations efficiently, especially via online mapping and Geographic Information System (GIS). Empowering cities, citizens A Smart City framework also enables three major outcomes: typology that helps cities benchmark relevant content based on hierarchy of physical city components; identify stakeholder roles to define who does what; and build a catalogue of city content that is easily accessible. A Smart City can formulate citizen-centric solutions to help urban communities choose among different combinations of municipal tariff and service levels, while providing community members with transparency in costs. ICT-enabled call centres can provide reliable customer service to urban communities. In Hyderabad, for example, the ‘e-SEVA’ application enables digital monitoring and metering of water consumption for each individual household in a transparent manner. A Smart City should also improve participatory planning by making way for an in-depth, instant understanding of infrastructure and social service needs, creating opportunities for cities to deploy resources effectively. Citizens’ feedback aids decision-making and is vital in devising city-planning solutions, where leadership of neighborhoods and occupational groups, chambers of commerce, youth and NGOs are closely involved in consultations and recommendations. ICT can enable the creation of urban information databases for planning and naming city streets and neighborhoods. All these can lead to an online, paperless, knowledge-based government that is transparent and accountable at each level. The development of Smart Cities requires a pragmatic approach toward technological development, powered by ICT as an instrument for sustainable development in all its dimensions.