The Smart Cities Mission (SCM) is based on the idea of using information and communications technology as the bedrock to modernise cities in order to make them more sustainable, liveable, resilient and inclusive. One of the key components of the mission is the provision of robust institutional infrastructure. This implies development of smart governing bodies and councils.
Smart governance includes e-governance, m-governance, online grievance redressal portals, mobile apps, and online payment gateways. Broadly, it is about the creative use of new information systems such as cloud, big data and intelligent analytics to transform the way public services are delivered.
Cases in point
Under the SCM, a number of mobile applications have been developed to integrate citizens with the government. In September 2019, the Delhi Police launched the Tatpar app to offer safety and a convenient 24×7 online access to its citizens. The app is a one-stop solution to access over 50 citizen-centric services. Gwalior has also developed an all-in-one app solution for the city. The app has four modules – Veerangana (women safety and security), blood bank management system, Paryatan (tourism promotion) and citizen-centric services (taxi services, hotel bookings, travel planner, etc.).
In order to provide efficient and robust Wi-Fi connectivity, the upcoming smart cities are setting up Wi-Fi hotspots, free Wi-Fi zones, Wi-Fi lounges, Wi-Fi hubs, etc. at various locations. Kohima Smart City Development Limited launched Kohima Wi-Fi City, Phase I, in December 2019. The city corporation has provided free Wi-Fi hotspots in Kohima Science College, Jotsoma, and at the Regional Centre of Excellence for Music and Performing Arts. One of the distinguishing features of the project is that tourists who arrive without SIM cards will also be able to access internet services. Meanwhile, the Greater Noida Industrial Development Authority has planned to offer free Wi-Fi and set up high speed internet spots. To begin with, the Wi-Fi project is likely to be implemented across four sectors and 11 model villages. The authority has decided to cap the free data usage at 1.5 GB per day.
An integrated command and control centre (ICCC) has also been envisaged as an integral part of a smart city. As of March 2019, ICCCs worth Rs 27.7 billion have been made operational across 15 cities, projects worth Rs 22.6 billion are under development in 31 cities and tenders for projects worth Rs 25.5 billion have been invited in over 18 cities. The country’s first ICCC was inaugurated in Bhopal. The cloud-based universal internet of things (IoT) platform has been developed by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise. The Bhopal ICCC has been set up for all the seven smart cities of Madhya Pradesh – Bhopal, Indore, Ujjain, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Satna and Sagar. In December 2019, the Uttarakhand government inaugurated an ICCC at the Dehradun IT Park. Developed by Dehradun Smart City Limited, it will enable officials to monitor a number of services and activities throughout the city once it is fully functional.
The upcoming smart cities are setting up exclusive cells for grievance redressal and are increasingly adopting electronic portals, mobile apps, social media, etc. for registering complaints. In October 2019, Kanpur Smart City Limited launched an app – Kanpur Smart City – to enable residents to register complaints related to sanitation, dilapidated roads, strewn garbage, water pipeline leakages, encroachment, choked drains, etc., and get them resolved.
The pain points
One of the greatest challenges that smart governance faces is the lack of knowledge about new technologies. Not every individual who migrates to a city is e-literate. Commencement of infrastructure works without the disbursement of smart city funds is another challenge that needs to be addressed. Besides, the fragmented institutional structure at the city level, slow adoption of IT at the municipal corporation level, lack of skilled manpower, tight schedules for project execution, data storage problems, and critical dependence on multiple stakeholders, among others, are some of the other challenges faced in the implementation of governance and communication initiatives.
The way forward
The extensive use of technology is intended to create a progressive government. As cities are being developed on a “smart city model”, it has become imperative for governments to incorporate e-governance to strengthen democracy and increase public participation and thereby increase public welfare.
Smart governance involves the deployment of technology-based solutions to enhance administrative efficiency. IoT has huge potential for improving the standard of living, increasing safety, ensuring better traffic control and efficient use of energy, decreasing pollution levels, etc. Nevertheless, there is a need to increase awareness among citizens as well as officials, as the success of these applications depends critically upon them.