As India moves closer to the ambitious “Smart City” concept, decoding the smartness and its constituents has become a must. To a layman this may look like an integrated setup, where everything just falls in its place. But, for those who understand the world wide web and its power, it is an intelligent networking of smart devices that can keep your city up and running in nothing but the most efficient manner.
“Smart City”, uses new technologies and gadgets to make them more livable, functional, competitive and modern. Information and Communication Technology (ICT) one such powerful tool that can ensure all round development and prosperity without compromising on the quality of life.
The word smart economy refers to the cities with “smart” industries. The word smart here however is not just limited to the businesses involved in ICT, but also covers all those industries which actively involve ICT in production processes for their benefit.
Penetration of ICT use in businesses
The reality of the new digital society affects the companies as well. And with changing times it is prudent for them to adapt to this reality. This is surely happening in bits and pieces in some parts of the country. But, as we move towards our smart future, reliance on e-platforms and internet will have to increase.
Support for entrepreneurship
Keeping the needs of new businesses in mind the authorities will have to plan support system for entrepreneurs. The e-initiatives of any civic agencies in such smart cities will have to be directed towards providing a platform ready for present and future needs of businesses. This in turn will guarantee enough employment generation and revenue for them to sustain in the long run. As a prerequisite the cities will have to develop and promote infrastructure which can support future ready business activities, such as science or technology parks, industrial parks and business incubators.
The differentiating element between a digital city and a smart city are the people who stay there. People are smart in terms of their skills and educational levels. They also have various capabilities and qualities like being able to be social, to interact in terms of integration and public life and their ability to open to the “outside” world.
Education and Training
A key element in the development of such cities is having well‐educated citizens. And, for this there is an increasing need to develop knowledge and skill imparting centres at various levels. Having a University or an area specific skill development centre is sure to boost the ‘smartness’ factor in our smart cities.
Not only that the planned educational institutions should flexible and should be ready to adapt the changes that a society is going through due to globalisation and the advancement of new technologies.
As new technologies evolve at a breakneck speed, it is important to design classrooms that mainly focus on closing the digital divide, thereby promoting the skills of teachers and incorporating the new generation of digital learning resources. New technologies will contribute immensely towards improving the education system and provide many benefits, such as reduced costs, flexible hours and greater interaction through virtual education centres.
Life‐long education is becoming an increasingly important element in new labour market dynamics. Smart educational centres will have to be implemented to promote lifelong learning process.
Universities and research centres are key players in the innovation ecosystem. This is why the “smart cities” will have to promote cooperation between companies and knowledge centres, so that they remain the key contributors in the economic and social development of their cities.
While the term Research & Development(R&D) and its advantages have been realised world over, the smart cities will have to incorporate another very important aspect of this, the ‘Innovation’. While each and every smart project is going to be different from each other the ‘I’ or the innovation part has to be stressed upon to customise and put results of R&D to use for maximum benefit.
Smart governance includes political and active participation, citizenship services and the smart use of e‐Governance. While some progress has already been initiated at various levels, smart cities are expected to have a complete online setup of various governmental services.
Local Public spending on ICT
New technologies represent the first step in innovation and competitiveness; therefore, an investment in ICT would be an opportunity to enhance the development of a city by ensuring an efficient management of public services.
On‐line public services
Once the new technology is introduced to the public administration it is expected to improve the productivity and quality of the service offered to its citizens and businesses. This will ensure a flexible access to government services at any time and place in a more convenient, personalised, faster and less expensive manner.
Among the major on‐line services that can be offered by the cities, could be filing of complaints and claims, requesting certificates and reports, making payments and debits, on‐line registrations and paying taxes and fees.
New technologies can be used to enhance democratic processes and increase opportunities for individuals and communities to interact with the government. The characteristics of Internet mean that such participation becomes broader, overcoming the limitations imposed by geography, physical disabilities or any other factor. It also provides access to information by individuals and groups that had not previously been included.
Fully aware of the importance of promoting more transparent governments, cities will have to promote the public access to municipal information through their websites. The institutional information that is most frequently asked for in a city refers to the likes of municipal plans, regulations and budgets.
Smart Mobility has to do with providing the public with an access to new technologies, and the use of these in everyday urban life.
Connectivity and ICT infrastructure
Internet has revolutionised the way we interact, learn, entertain and work. Today it is hard to imagine our life without Internet. Proof of this is the fact that the percentage of Internet users in most cities is rising and with the advent of mobile internet platforms, it is even getting better. In response to the needs of users and to the ever increasing demand for Internet, cities will have to be planned for a broadband or high-speed Internet coverage within their territorial limits.
In addition to the access to a high speed internet coverage a thought should also be spared for public wifi hot-spots at places like business districts and public utility areas. The authorities will also have to invest in the information kiosks or any such nodes which allow public to get whatever information they want.
Smart environment and living
Smart environment refers to the use of new technologies to protect and preserve a city’s environment and provide a healthy living for its citizens.
Security and trust
The level of risk in the cities is increasing rapidly, particularly in developing countries. New technologies therefore offer the possibility of making safer cities. A video surveillance system based on ICT can be a boon here. While the developments are being monitored in their control room, the civic authorities and law enforcement agencies can take corrective measures sitting at the nerve centre. Another aspect of this is that the authorities will always be in full command at any point in time and can ask for reinforcements well in advance before the situation goes out of hand.
ICT will also enable the application of new technologies in ways that affect health care, from diagnosis to monitoring patients, including the management of the organisations involved in these activities. This will provide citizens with considerable advantages in terms of information, and even allows the availability of alternative diagnoses and remote treatment or tele‐assistance. Online medical services and digital records will enable many non serious patients to consult physicians from a remote location thereby saving on valuable resources.
While the possibilities of ICT can be limitless, but the beauty of it is such that it can be customised for any given situation. And for efficient management of our smart cities an e-platform is must.
In short, we must work to achieve creative and talented cities that are innovative and highly technological.