Time to Rebuild Smarter with GIS

A centralised information system based on GIS provides an IT framework that integrates all aspects of a smart city, in a world where norms of the past are no longer valid


A study by the McKinsey Global Institute suggests that the world’s 600 fastest-growing cities will account for 60 percent of global economic growth between 2010 and 2025, that has led to population explosion, rapid urbanisation and climatic changes. To cope, it is important that countries focus on infrastructure and resource management. ‘Smart City’ is the answer, referring to a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas like economy, environment, mobility, governance, public safety and living conditions. Rebuild ‘stronger’ or ‘smarter’? As communities struggle to either cope with growth or recover from catastrophic events the first thought is ‘rebuilding stronger’ whereas I would argue in the favour of ‘rebuilding smarter’, which requires serious planning. The norms of the past—building codes, policies, and regulations—that protected human life and property are no longer valid. We need to re-examine and reboot our thinking to plan for a rapidly-evolving world, through a systems approach that calculates the cumulative impact of small acts across disciplines and departments; and tools that minimise risk while reducing resource use. India is at the cusp of its next economic renaissance. Recovery is on the cards and the government has outlined key priorities to boost the economy with a major focus on infrastructure development. Thus, it is important to plan and ‘future-proof’ cities against time’s vagaries. Developing Greenfield cities or upgrading existing ones is a very complex process, both in terms of time and scale. A common guiding vision, iterative planning and execution are imperative for this, as well as deployment of a common technology platform capable of integrating all aspects of the smart city ecosystem with stakeholders of city development and planning. It should break down existing silos enabling cross-department data, information, services sharing and collaboration. A centralised information system based on Geographic Information System (GIS) provides an IT framework that integrates every aspect of a smart city, from conceptualisation, planning and development to maintenance. Build to be future-ready Smart & sustainable urban planning is an area where GIS solutions have played a pivotal role. Planners can generate digital cities that actually exist or will be developed – essentially allowing them to visualise the future. Smart 3D solutions can produce a ‘real life’ depiction of how a city would look like, before and after urban development. The technology can also show the impact of these developments on a range of areas including the carbon footprint or water usage. Numerous scenarios can be modelled to refine decision-making and optimise choice. Gujarat International Finance Tech city (GIFT) in Gujarat is a shining example of the use of GIS from the planning stage itself. In GIFT city, spatial and other information related to urban planning, infrastructure, transport, architecture and engineering has been integrated into a single GIS system that presents specialised processes for the analysis of spatial problems and questions, along with various analytical tools to help develop spatial relationships in data modelling, analysis and storage. It gives a holistic view of an upcoming Smart City. GIS has been used in benchmarking of the master plan, 3D visualisation for the urban skyline, geometric network of power utilities and landscape management. It is being used in real-time monitoring of issues related to distortion and deviation while executing utility services. GIS can make cities safer by assisting law enforcement agencies in keeping a check over crime rates, as a catalyst for innovations in crime control and prevention. While GIS has been actively used for information and intelligence gathering and mapping; the software provides a platform for considering multiple variables. With GIS, law enforcement can map criminal trends to better analyse data and determine patterns of criminal behaviour. GIS has the power to transform the lives of ordinary people and help build smarter, connected, sustainable and new age cities that are citizen-centric.