IUDX: Unleashing the Power of Data for Urban Administration

“With the capabilities to unleash the power of data analytics, artificial intelligence, and machine learning, IUDX will enable higher operational efficiency in city administration by facilitating the data exchange between various civic bodies, municipal departments, application developers, and data consumers”, asserts Dr. Inder Gopal, CEO IUDX Program and Research Professor – Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore in conversation with Poulami Chakraborty of BW Businessworld.

What is IUDX?

With data being the fuel that will power smart solutions in cities of the future, India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX) is a significant milestone on the road to realizing the vision of data-powered cities. Built to kick-start co-creation and co-innovation, IUDX is a state-of-the-art, open-source software platform that utilizes the power of data to address the complex problems faced by urban India.

With the capabilities to unleash the power of data analytics, artificial intelligence and machine learning, IUDX will enable higher operational efficiency in city administration by facilitating the data exchange between various civic bodies, municipal departments, application developers and data consumers. By standardizing the interfaces for data discovery, authentication, authorization and data exchange, IUDX will help to provide the much-needed interoperability between diverse entities from both the public and private sector.

To begin with, would you elaborate to us what stroke the chord for MOHUA to form IUDX? What further scopes does IUDX create for cities to convert?

The government realized the importance of data and how it could be used to improve governance, civic services, and the day-to-day lives of the citizens. The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) was then launched to further the objective of promoting sustainable and inclusive development by applying smart solutions, along with upgrading and augmenting urban infrastructure. However, in order to achieve the objectives of smart cities, all its departments and other stakeholders in the ecosystem need to work collaboratively.

Currently, the cities and city departments are largely independent and work in vertical silos. There is no standardization of software components or of their interfaces, or of the underlying data models. An overarching strategy was needed to overcome both organizational and technological siloes if we were to realize the full potential of smart cities. In order to address this, MoHUA, through the SCM, and in collaboration with the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, decided to form a data exchange platform leading to the birth of IUDX. IUDX helps to evolve standards, specifications, certifications, systems, and tools for urban stakeholders to share data effectively for improved planning and decision-making. It is a critical component of National Urban Innovation Stack, a shared digital infrastructure that is available for use by citizens, entrepreneurs, academics, administrators, governments, NGOs and other urban actors across the country.

By deploying IUDX, cities look to gain immensely on multiple fronts. This platform will help cut development costs and reduce time spent on development by enabling peer-to-peer sharing and re-use of successful smart city solutions. Further, by adopting the marketplace approach, IUDX will help cities source high-quality solutions at the best price from a wide variety of service providers. With its standardized and open platform, it can empower city administrations to avoid vendor lock-in and provide great flexibility to choose vendors based on the evolving needs of the city and its citizens. Such a model will provide room for plug-and-play applications and thus, encourage data-driven innovation from entrepreneurs and the wider community. In the long-run, IUDX will posit Indian cities at the forefront of the global data economy by equipping them with essential tools to monetize data for the benefit of all.

What is the idea of National Urban Digital Mission? How is it going to be beneficial for building future cities?

The National Urban Digital Mission (NUDM) is an effort by MoHUA and MeitY to bring a change in how our cities function and leverage the huge amount of data they generate to evolve a culture of data usage in governance machinery. The initiative will help to bring in an era of citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven digital transformation for our cities.

NUDM inherits the technology design principles of the National Urban Innovation Stack (NUIS) and will create a shared digital infrastructure for urban India, working across the three pillars of people, process, and platform to provide holistic support to cities and towns. One of the distinguishing features of NUDM is that it will enable towns and cities across the country to benefit from the diverse and holistic forms of support in accordance with their needs and local challenges.

It will provide for enhancing the efficiency and effectiveness of governance at all levels and will strengthen existing urban systems and applications, by ensuring their conformity with the defined standards and integration with the proposed National Digital Health Mission.

Some of ways NUDM will benefit cities and its citizens are:

  • Cities will be able to take more informed decisions for managing the city infrastructure and services better
  • Citizens will have better and improved access to government services
  • Data driven culture will lower the costs for innovation, unfolding an opportunity for entrepreneurs and start-ups
  • Improved financial management, fund-utilization and budgeting for city administration
  • More sustainable urban development improving the ease of living of citizens

How will the inter-city data sharing and exchange work? How are cities selected for the parameters?

With the deployment of IUDX in 7 cities, data sharing within various departments in a city has just begun. It is the first stage of enabling data sharing and developing a robust data sharing ecosystem needed to deliver value from smart cities' data. The next stage will be connecting these individual cities paving the way for data sharing among cities and signaling that Smart Cities are moving to the next level of value creation for citizens and local governments. IUDX enabled platforms can seamlessly inter-work not only across the various city departments but also across cities at a national level.

Since IUDX is designed to address the problem of data silos, both within and across cities, as the number of cities on IUDX expands, IUDX will automatically scale up to uniform and seamless sharing between data producers and data consumers across urban India.  It will create a secure and reliable channel for data producers to share their data, with complete control over what is shared and with whom, helping the cities with new revenue sources and creating a fertile environment for innovation.

The smart cities for the deployment of IUDX are selected based on the availability of high-quality pertinent datasets that can be on-boarded on IUDX. The SCM plays the most crucial role in this process by liaising first with the cities to understand their readiness to deploy IUDX.

Going forward how is it planned to advance the IUDX concept?

IUDX is designed as a general platform for data exchange. The initial target is the Urban sector and the initial deployments and use cases are targeted for smart cities. However, the core technology is applicable in other sectors such as Healthcare, Agriculture, Industrial, Financial, and Education.  In each of these sectors, there is a requirement for data exchange.   The Ministry of Electronics and IT (MeitY) has identified data exchange as a core component of the India Ecosystem Architecture 2.0 (IndEA 2.0). In addition, MeitY has selected IUDX as an example of a working data exchange that can be replicated in these other sectors. As the IUDX project matures, we will explore applicability in other sectors.   There will be considerable overlap and synergy between the sectors and common underlying technology for data exchange based on IUDX will ensure maximum leverage of these synergies.

Would you share with us the plans for expansion?

IUDX has a defined trajectory for the next three years with plans to bring 10 smart cities under the IUDX umbrella in 2020-21, 20 cities in 2021-22 and 25 cities in next year.

Please share with us some examples of IUDX implementation

Three use cases are now live in 3 pioneer smart cities – Pune, Varanasi and Surat.

Surat – Bus passengers in Surat are able to plan their travel more effectively, using the real time information on the exact time for bus arrival, the seat occupancy status and probability of availability of space at a particular stop based on number of passengers on-board. This has been possible by enabling data sharing on real-time traffic conditions and ticket collections in public buses through IUDX.

Varanasi – Varanasi’s sanitation department has been able to optimize waste puck ups by accurately estimating wet and dry waste volumes using smartphone-based sensors within their garbage trucks.

Pune – With the help of IUDX, a mobile-based app Safetipin helps people to access the information about the safest route from one place to another in real-time. This has been made possible by utilizing multiple static and dynamic data to calculate a live safety index per street and serve it again through IUDX.