Citizen Centric: Smart measures for governance and communication

Smart measures for governance and communication

The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is based on the idea of using information and communication technology (ICT) as the bedrock to modernise cities in order to make them more sustainable, liveable, resilient and inclusive.

A key component of the SCM is the provision of robust institutional infrastructure. This implies the development of smart governing bodies and councils. The concept of smart governance revolves around using technology to facilitate and support better planning and decision-making. Smart governance includes e-

governance, m-governance, online grievance redressal portals, mobile apps, online payment gateways, etc. It is about the creative use of new information systems such as cloud, big data, intelligent analytics, etc. to transform the way public services are delivered.

Smart governance can dramatically alter the productivity of people, and help governments and companies save huge amounts of resources by cutting costs on operations, coordination and on several other fronts. Smart governance leads to improved service delivery, increased transparency, accountability and reliability, municipal empowerment and the realisation of the ultimate goal of democratic decentralisation.

Features of smart governance

E-governance and the involvement of the public in decision-making processes is the most important aspect of smart governance. The use of ICT with the help of computers, the internet, telecommunications, geographic information system (GIS), etc. is one of the primary features of smart governance. E-consultation through active public participation in various matters and the creation of a proper channel for interaction between the government and its citizens is another important feature. Also, easy and free online access to data on government funds, expenditure and investment (except for critical information pertaining to security and safety of citizens) is another distinguishing feature of smart governance. This access makes governments more accountable and encourages greater participation by citizens in the government’s functioning.

Smart governance solutions: Cases in point

  • In order to bring services closer to citizens and enhance citizen participation, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) has developed a single city app, Pune Connect. Launched under PMC CARE (Citizen Assistance Response and Engagement), the app provides governance at the fingertips of citizens. The app provides services such as payment of property tax and water bills, emergency contact information, and houses an inbuilt facility finder. It also provides a directory for all municipal departments.
  • The Jabalpur Municipal Corporation has launched a mobile-based citizen app, Jabalpur-311, to enable citizens to access a range of civic services using their smartphone. These include access to services like online applications for birth and death certificates, online payment of property tax and water bills, etc. The app also has portals through which one can connect to the police, ambulance service, and helplines for women, children and senior citizens. Further, the app provides real-time traffic and parking information. Jabalpur-311 has helped the urban local body track, manage and analyse service delivery across the city.
  •  Action Udaipur is a mobile app developed for citizen participation in government interventions. The application has features such as online grievance redressal, Jan Bhagidari (citizens’ participation), and corporate social responsibility (CSR). For instance, in the Jan Bhagidari feature one can seek participation of citizens in cleanliness activities in the city. Similarly, one can lodge complaints on the app and upload photographs highlighting issues. Once lodged, the complaint reaches the concerned authority with global positioning system locations of the site.
  • The special purpose vehicle (SPV) formed for developing Panaji’s smart city plans to launch a smart city app in the next few months. This will be an “all rolled into one” app wherein citizens will be able to get information on almost all parameters in the city, ranging from parking spaces to online governance portals, etc. Further, the SPV is also planning to launch a smart city card to enable online payments across gateways and sellers in the city.

ICCC: The game changer

The development of an integrated command and control centre (ICCC) is a key step towards making governance truly smart. As the name suggests, an ICCC is one centre for all solutions. An ICCC helps control, coordinate and monitor all actions taking place in the city at one centre, right from monitoring pollution levels, to detecting thefts and keeping tabs on traffic.

Several Indian smart cities are expected to deploy ICCC technology in the near future. For instance, the Surat Municipal Corporation is building a SMArt City (SMAC) centre as an ICCC for effectively managing the city, and will incorporate the provision of good quality municipal/ allied services to its citizens. Further, the Rajkot smart city’s  plan document has a provision for setting up an ICCC as well. The SPV for the Panaji smart city is expected to float the first tender for an ICCC soon. The project is estimated to cost Rs 1.5 billion. The ICCC expected to come up in Panaji will keep the city under 24×7 surveillance. It will have a public broadcast system which can tell the citizens to avoid specific areas or send information on traffic, smart parking, slots available, etc. Further, the ICCC system will have software that will detect abnormal and suspicious movement through the criminal facial recognition system.

Employment of GIS technologies

GIS can be used for a wide variety of smart city operations such as smart water management, smart transportation and smart energy management. Cities can also use GIS for property taxes, water distribution, public safety, emergency response, etc. It allows spatial data management for cities with mapping of utilities, services and resources below the ground as well as infrastructure and land use above the ground. These systems help make the process of building and managing cities more inclusive as it facilitates better communication of plans and activities to citizens. Further, a 3D GIS can aid in the development of a realistic simulation of a project, environment, or critical situation. In short, it can help smart cities take better decisions.

Cities like Bhubaneswar and Bhopal have GIS at the core of their smart city vision. The key innovation in these cities has been in institutionalising the use of GIS across city functions and citizen services. Panaji has decided to undertake GIS mapping of the city in order to improve municipal tax collection and identify municipal tax defaulters. It plans to use LiDAR-based drone services to map the city and thereby ensure that all properties come under the tax radar and are assessed at the correct rate. The exercise is expected to increase the revenue of the city’s municipal corporation without any increase in tax rates.

Challenges and the way forward

One of the greatest challenges that smart governance faces is a lack of awareness. Not every individual that moves to a city for a better quality of life is e-literate. Besides this, a paucity of funds is another challenge that needs to be addressed. Prior to the emergence of the concept of smart cities, the efficiency of public and citizen services was driven by e-governance initiatives that would run in silos. The focus has now shifted towards connected and collaborative delivery of government services in order to provide a better experience to citizens. A lacklustre and apathetic response from the public could be a roadblock on the path of success for various smart governance initiatives. A combination of smart technological innovations and active public participation is what can help make smart governance a reality across Indian smart cities.