SMART CITY CHALLENGES
What is a Smart City?
Smart City is a city that focuses on its most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve lives. The objective is to promote cities that provide core infrastructure and give a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is on sustainable and inclusive development.
A Smart City should effectively make use of Information Technologies to:
- Make more efficient use of physical infrastructure (roads, built environment and other physical assets) through artificial intelligence and data analytics to support a strong and healthy economic, social, cultural development
- Engage effectively with local people in local governance and decision by use of open innovationprocesses and e-participation, improving the collective intelligence of the city’s institutions through E-Governance, with emphasis placed on citizen participation and co-design
- Learn, adapt and innovate and thereby respond more effectively and promptly to changing circumstances by improving the intelligence of the city
Following are the challenges that the Smart Cities mission could face:
Dependency on States and Urban Local Bodies:
States and Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) will play a key role in the development of Smart Cities. Smart leadership and vision at this level and ability to act decisively will be important factors determining the success of the Smart Cities mission.
Retrofitting existing legacy city infrastructure to make it smart:
There are a number of issues to consider when reviewing a smart city strategy. The most important is to determine the existing city’s weak areas that need utmost consideration, for e.g. 100 per cent distribution of water supply and electricity. The integration of formerly isolated legacy systems to achieve citywide efficiencies can be a significant challenge.
Availability of master plan or city development plan:
Most of our cities don’t have master plans or a city development plan, which is the key to smart city planning and implementation. According to a report by the Union Urban Development Ministry, only 24 per cent of the total cities and towns have a master plan while the remaining 76 per cent doesn’t have one.
Financial sustainability of ULBs:
Most ULBs are not financially self-sustainable and tariff levels fixed by the ULBs for providing services often do not reflect the cost of supplying the same. Even if additional investments are recovered in a phased manner, inadequate cost recovery will lead to continued financial losses.
Technical constraints of ULBs:
Most ULBs have limited technical capacity to ensure timely and cost-effective implementation, subsequent operations and maintenance owing to limited recruitment over a number of years and inability to attract best of talent at market competitive compensation rates.
Successful implementation of smart city solutions needs effective horizontal and vertical coordination between various institutions providing various municipal amenities as well as effective coordination between central government, state governments and local government agencies on various issues related to financing and sharing of best practices and service delivery processes.
Providing clearances in a timely manner:
For completion of the project within the given time period, all clearances should be carried out using online processes and be cleared in a timely manner. A regulatory body should be set up for all utility services so that tariffs are set in a manner that balances financial sustainability with quality.
Dealing with a multivendor environment:
Another major challenge in the smart city mission is that usually software infrastructure in cities contains components supplied by different vendors. Hence, the ability to handle and coordinate between complex combinations of smart city solutions developed by multiple technology vendors becomes very significant.
Capacity building program:
Building capacity for smart cities is not an easy task and most ambitious projects are delayed owing to lack of quality manpower, both at the center and state levels. In terms of funds, only around 5 per cent of the central allocation may be allocated for capacity building programs that focus on training, contextual research, and knowledge exchange. Investments in capacity building programs have a multiplier effect as they help in time-bound completion of projects and in designing programs, developing faculty, building databases as well as designing tool kits and decision support systems. As all these need a long time to accomplish, capacity building needs to be strengthened right at the beginning.
Reliability of utility services:
For any smart city, the focus is on reliability of utility services, whether it is electricity, water, telephone or broadband services. It is not possible with the existing supply and distribution system. Cities need to shift towards renewable sources and green initiatives for fulfilling the Smart City mission objectives.
The Smart Cites mission requires smart people who actively participate in governance and reforms. Citizen involvement is much more than a ceremonial participation in governance. Smart people involve themselves in the definition of the Smart City, decisions on deploying Smart Solutions, implementing reforms, doing more with less and designing post-project structures in order to make the Smart City developments sustainable.