Future Cities: What it takes to build one

India has witnessed rapid urbanization in the last few years and is expected to house 63 cities with a population of 1 million or more by 2025. However, some of the imminent threats of rapid urbanization include demographic issues such as an ageing population, immigration issues, the digital divide etc. and several environmental impacts generated out of energy inefficiency, waste generation and population. Therefore the need of the hour is infrastructure development and effective service delivery across multiple jurisdictions to meet citizen’s demands and minimize the threats of rapid urbanization.

The CII-PWC Report, “Future Cities – What it takes to build one”, launched during the Eastern Region Seminar on Future Cities held during June 2017, explores some of the challenges and presents an opportunity framework for the development of future cities.

Some of the challenges that may arise in the path of building future cities are briefly discussed below.

Challenges

Infrastructure: One major area of work is to identify a city’s existing problems and provide effective solutions to them. Some of the key areas which require attention include the distribution of water supply, housing and sanitation.  To meet the demand for housing, public-private cooperation must address the cost of construction by leveraging technology, leading approaches and emerging business models.

Financing future cities: An important area is the financing of projects. The channels of financing should be identified, for example, whether a project will be financed via private investment or a public-private partnership (PPP).

Three-tier governance: Effective coordination between various institutions and the different government agencies (central, state and local) are required on various issues related to financing, sharing of best practices and service delivery.

Timely Clearances: Timely completion of projects is essential for effective service delivery. An online platform is ideal for clearances to take place in a time-bound manner.

Capacity Building: Capacity building is a critical aspect for building future cities and at present, only about 5% of the central allocation is allocated for capacity building programmes.

Reliability of Utility Services: Reliable utility services such as electricity, water, telephone and broadband services are an essential prerequisite for any future city in the world. Future cities should have universal access to uninterrupted electricity and this is not possible with the existing supply and distribution system.

Engaging Citizens in Governance: Participatory governance is a platform for democratic engagement of citizens and their participation in government policies. However, very often inputs and ideas are not sought from the general public and are made by a few elected representatives, which may not reflect the pulse of the people. Thus for improving service delivery and promoting social inclusiveness, engaging citizens in the governance process is essential.

Opening up of Data for Transparency and Service Delivery: Management and availability of open data is also an important requirement for building future cities. Open data ensures transparency across systems and improves service delivery by leveraging data for the welfare of people at large. Open data also facilitates the coordination between multiple departments and improves the visibility of coordinates for reliable and effective service delivery.

Active Involvement of Private Sector: Businesses play an important role in the development of future cities and are expected to develop new and innovative technological solutions and services, invest in R&D and create platforms to bring together stakeholders to deliver the much-needed integrated solutions. In this context, the strategic role played by the private sector is of utmost importance in assisting cities in realizing their smart and sustainable objectives.

Tapping Innovative Financial Resources:  Besides traditional sources like central and state funding, the Government’s Smart City Initiative has specified several innovative potential funding sources such as multi-lateral and bilateral development agencies, pooled municipal debt obligation facilities, municipal bonds, real estate investment trusts and infrastructure investment trusts.

Integrated Approach in Planning and Execution: To ensure that the urban planning targets are properly aligned with the city’s smart and sustainable vision, every city needs to establish a single-window agency that will work together with the city-officials and policy-makers. Some of the critical institutional factors that would help achieve the vision of smart cities include good governance, planning, legislation and policies, financing, public and private cooperation and education, training and development.

Opportunities

The Government is increasing its focus on the creation of future cities to address rapid urbanization, manage complex processes, increase efficiency and improve the quality of life for citizens. The Smart City Initiative has some promising prospects and brings with it an array of opportunities for city stakeholders to further drive the growth of new services.

A framework for future cities which can be considered is described below.

Centralized Command and Control Centre: A centralized command and control centre centralizes the monitoring, control and command of a city’s overall operations and analyses collected data from data grid and sensors for the seamless and mass distribution of critical instructions, notifications and alerts.

Intelligent Lighting: Intelligent street lighting systems use cutting edge IoT-enabled solutions and help cities create more energy through reduced CO2 emissions and increases overall safety.

Intelligent Utilities: New energy sources can be tapped and user experiences can be improved through introduction of intelligent utilities like smart grids, smart meters among others. Smart water, smart electricity and efficient waste management lead to cost savings and cleaner environments.

Future Ready Governance: Future ready governance is expected to transform the way public services are delivered by facilitating interactions with citizens with the help of technology which would help in better planning and decision making.

Intelligent Traffic System: Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS) are applications of advanced sensor, computer electronics and communication technologies which enable smarter, safer and more coordinated use of transport networks.

Smart Bus & Bus Shelters: GPS-enables buses with fleet tracking and smart bus shelters with intelligent display are helping cities to improve rider experience, reduce traffic and road accidents.

Smart Solid Waste Management: Smart solid management helps in disposing household and commercial garbage in an environmentally and economically sound manner with innovative integrated solutions like door to door RFID tags to monitor waste collection, smart bins and real time vehicle tracking for garbage transportation.

Intelligent Surveillance: City intelligent surveillance deploys city-wide camera and video system to help boost security, prevent crime and control traffic and assists in public safety and low enforcement.

CII’s Role in Promoting Smart Cities

CII has worked continuously to achieve the goals of a cleaner, greener and sustainable environment and collaborates with the Government, academics and citizens to help and support the Government’s Smart Cities Initiative.

As part of CII’s policy advocacy work, recommendations are made to the Government and other stakeholders, which revolve around the overarching issues of financing, planning, and capacity building, with a view to facilitating opportunities for industry and strengthening the PPP infrastructure.

CII also plays an active role in promoting ideas, initiating dialogues and promoting best practices through various platforms for the development of Smart Cities. The CII Smart City Profile Booklet and the CII directory on Smart City Products & Services were released by then Union Minister for Urban Development Shri M Venkaiah Naidu at the Smart City Investors Meet, which also provided a platform for sharing ideas.

A dialogue was initiated on the aspects of using smart technologies to address the challenges of rapid urbanization and sustainable development of cities during “The Connected City: Tech Solutions for India’s Smart Cities Session” at the India-UK Tech Summit.

The CII Smart Cities Mission has signed MoUs with 16 Indian cities and has facilitated various country consortiums including with Australia, Japan, UK, a consortium led by Queensland University of Technology, etc.

The Smart Cities Mission conceptualized by the Government of India, is an ongoing journey and although a beginning has been made, it will take some time to completely transform the cities into cities of future and sustain citizen demands and expectations. CII is committed to the Government’s Smart Cities Mission Programme and will continue to undertake efforts in the coming years to make this mission a success.

Source: CII-PWC Report~ Future Cities – What it takes to build one

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