Safer citizens: The key to smart cities

Comprising of both traditional and digital safety elements, a PPP-based security approach aimed at safeguarding both citizens and infrastructure is pivotal to national progress

key to safety

Cities must adapt to the challenges that modernity has brought along with it in this new digital era. One of these challenges is to reconcile technology with all aspects of the city, a concept better known as a smart city. The smart city is a city that uses digital technology to run itself and manage resources efficiently. A city can be defined as smart, once all the eight key aspects that make the foundation of a city are identified as smart: governance, energy, building, infrastructures, mobility, technology, healthcare and safety. Indeed, all nations in the world are now racing to create smart cities within their territories to ensure that all aspects of life are critically improved and made smart so as to guarantee citizens’ well-being. From Stockholm to Berlin, Paris and Barcelona, national governments, local municipalities are focused on implementing smart technologies across all major domains. The new power players of the world  - like India, Nigeria, Brazil, Turkey, China - are now learning this lesson and running with this vision via their elected governments. India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, has vouched to create 100 smart cities, which will be outfitted with high-tech communication capabilities - across the country. Along with that, modern satellite towns will be developed around existing cities under the programme. The Prime Minister‘s foresight is concomitant with India’s trend of continuous growth (right from its population to its services). It will be able to accommodate the rapidly-increasing urbanisation rates, propelling the country to play an even bigger role on the world stage, teaching the world how to reconcile digitalisation, city-building and an increment in population. Although the major facets for a successful smart city are taken into account, nonetheless, I have noticed that one facet seems to be overlooked, security. Security should be the top priority when implementing and drafting a smart city programme. However, it is often ignored or not prioritised, forgetting that smart security can improve not only the lives and safety of a city's citizens, but also make an impact on the other key aspects comprising a city. In doing so, it will protect the national critical infrastructure in other sectors as well. The unfortunate cases of rape, violence and aggressiveness in India have showed us that safety should include both traditional and digital elements, to further extend its effectiveness via a multi-dimensional approach that provides greater reach in one of the biggest and most populated nations on Earth. Therefore, a [tamper] proof security system must be ‘smartened’ and implemented first in order to guarantee the establishment of a real smart city. The physical and virtual safeguarding of the vulnerable members of society - such as women, children and the elderly - must be pivotal to the success of a nation’s progress and India’s government is doing things the right way in its approach to achieve it. Japan and many American companies, such as Cisco, have pledged to assist, fund and invest in making Indian cities smart. Many nations at the forefront of the smart cities’ concept, such as Germany, Sweden and the Netherlands, show us that national governments can benefit from public-private partnerships (PPP) to implement security models. Indeed, India’s vast population will benefit from a strong collaboration with private players in the security industry, to provide them with guidance on how to cater to all and guarantee the highest level of safety that citizens need. Many countries are jumping on to the smart cities bandwagon but with its commitment and the many projects under way, India is leading the way. With smart cities, India, its government and the security private sector can truly provide the world with the apposite guidelines to build fully-functional smart cities that will not only provide services to the country's citizens, but also raise the bar when it comes to first class security provision.