India is on Mission Not-So-Impossible. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs wants to help 100 cities to kickstart their smart city transformation.
As part of the Smart Cities Mission, launched in 2015, the country has set aside US$7.5 billion for an innovative challenge programme. Cities have been invited to bid for funding for their ideas as part of a national competition.
“We want to see a complete facelift and transformation of an area of the city,” says Jagan Shah, who is advising the government on this project. Shah, who is the Director of the National Institute of Urban Affairs, told GovInsider about the schemes that have been selected so far.
The Smart City Challenge takes a unique approach to tech funding. Most governments prescribe areas where money should be allocated, but this has a broader definition of any project using tech to “improve the quality of life and delivery of government services”, Shah says.
“Every city was required to come up with a vision of their city becoming smart,” he adds, allowing cities to play to their strengths. “Some might be religious towns where there’s a lot of pilgrimage, while others might be tourist or industrial towns, or administrative capitals,” he explains.
The competition received over 11,000 proposals from hundreds of cities that took part. 90 cities have been selected so far, and ten more will be selected in an ongoing complimentary round, Shah adds.
Around 2,300 proposals are now full-fledged projects, on course to be implemented on the ground, according to Shah. The total cost of the projects is 189,256 Cr (~US$29.1 million), and will impact the lives of almost 96 million citizens.
There is a broad set of problems which are “almost generic to all the smart cities”, says Shah. A low level of service delivery is at the top of the list, with many cities lacking water supply and sanitation, parking and traffic management, streetlights, surveillance systems, and the like. “If there is a disaster or fire, there are no alert systems,” he notes.
For instance, the city of Coimbatore in Tamil Nadu is exploring how it can manage its dozen lakes so that “the water is cleaned up and is also maintained”.
The city of Bhubaneswar in Odisha wants to develop a “child-friendly city”, and a trust is working on building public spaces that are more responsive to children’s needs.
Pune in Maharashtra is redeveloping its slums as part of its smart city efforts, but is going one step further by educating and training youths from those slums, so that they may get jobs and become part of the economy.
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