Taking Action: MoHUA initiates two major components of the Smart Cities Mission

Indian smart cities have showcased slow yet steady development since their inception. The growth trajectory of their projects has been heavily reliant on the quality of the supporting programmes. To speed up and streng­then this process, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) launched the Urban Outcomes Framework (UOF) 2022 in April 2022, which has an ambitious plan for creating a transparent and comprehensive city-level da­tabase. It has various components, including the ease of living index (EoLI), also a key initiative of the Smart Cities Mission. In order to an­chor this plan, MoHUA initiated two important components on November 9, 2022 – the Citi­zen Perception Survey (CPS) as a part of EoLI, and Stage 2 of the Transport 4 All challenge. While the CPS will harness EoLI’s target of 360-degree assessment of Indian cities on factors such as quality of life, economic ability and sustainability; Stage 2 of the Transport4All cha­llen­ge is centred on solution generation th­rough co-creation with city stakeholders. At a recent industry event, CPS and Transport4All were discussed. Excerpts…

Salient features of CPS

CPS has a targeted approach to the identification of service level gaps and improving service delivery by gauging the perception of citizens. It will account for 30 per cent of the EoLI weightage and identify the constraints faced by citize­ns, along with their growth expectations. It aims to help city authorities understand the opinion of citizens to ensure better governance.

The survey can be conducted by urban local body (ULB) officials in online or offline mo­­de, with a questionnaire to be filled in by citizens, covering various parameters. While the online mode will include a web-based platform, the offline mode would incorporate face-to-face surveys to be held by anonymous surveyors, along with the use of a mo­bile application with geotagg­ing features. The assessment of a city’s performance would also depend on its efforts with respect to city awareness programmes. These would include activities for promoting the survey through referral progra­mmes, print media, billboards, digital me­dia, etc. All these components will be weighted, with different marks for cities depending on their population category.

The CPS will be conducted from November 9, 2022 till December 23, 2022 – a period of 45 days. Moreover, the ranking of the 10 best performing cities will be generated on the EoLI website on a weekly basis, as well as at the end of the surveys. Additionally, an award for “best city engagement” will also be given for conducting the most innovative activities.

Funding and challenges

The sources of funding for the CPS are the administrative expenses under the smart cities funds, the revenues generated by ULBs, administrative funds from other schemes, and the central finance commission. The city authorities are open to making use of any of these funds in the best possible way.

Part 1 of UOF experienced a delay, with three extensions of 15 days each. The quality of data received for assessment was low and the ranking of the city was affected, slowing do­wn its development. As per MoHUA, the course of action for maximising corrections in such cases should only take a limited amount of time, and submission of documents in a proper manner is necessary.

Transport4All Challenge Stage 2

Stage 2 of the challenge is meant for start-ups to develop solutions for the issues and problems identified by the cities. Their ideas and pitches can be registered on the Start-up India portal. It is being organised by MoHUA in partnership with The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy as co-host and challenge coordinator, the Word Bank as knowledge partner, Startup India and City Innovation Exchan­ge as technology partners, and the Association of State Road Transport Under­taking as the city engagement partner. It will involve online and offline events in which the cities and start-ups will work together and propose solutions for contextual problems.

Smart city special purpose vehicles will play a crucial role in this challenge, as they will not only facilitate the data needed by the start-ups from different agencies, but also ensure that the right stakeholders are made available for discussions. Through this collaborative entrepreneurial work, the problems experienced by citizens will be made known, and a partnership approach will be applied to creating solutions. The World Bank will organise three international workshops on the topics associated with the problem statements to highlight international perspectives on the process, and 16 start-ups and solutions will be finalised by a panel of experts selected by MoHUA.

In sum

These two initiatives are expected to be led by high-level leadership exercises on qualitative response generation. According to MoHUA, around 30 to 40 cities have already done ex­ceptional work towards these efforts, including Indore, which made use of EoLI QR codes through innovative print media at local even­ts. Through this, smart cities can be shaped in a more relatable and meaningful way for their citizens.