Analysis of smart city developments in India


We discuss challenges faced by cities and federal state governments in implementing their smart city frameworks shortlisted by the government to participate in the country’s Smart Cities Mission.

Highlighted are the measures deployed to overcome challenges hindering the rollout of smart city programmes.

Origin of Smart Cities Mission

Following increases in population, rural to urban migration and industrial activities, smart city technologies were identified as a measure to optimise the management of urban resources including water and energy.

The Indian government launched the Smart Cities Mission in June 2016 under efforts to modernise urban infrastructure to improve the operations of government parastatals and companies in the water, transport, communications, gas and electricity sectors.

India’s Smart Cities Mission aims to convert 109 cities into smart cities by 2022.

The Ministry of Urban Development announced that it expects to spend up to $15 billion in implementing the Smart Cities Mission.

Amongst the 69 cities which have been selected thus far to participate in the programme, the majority have highlighted their plans to use the programme to improve their security, transport, energy, solid waste and waste water management.

For instance, utility companies are aiming to increase their renewable energy portfolios, reduce carbon emissions and help consumers improve management of their energy consumption through the use of IoT technologies.

Smart city programmes are designed to help improve e-mobility and connectivity amongst government parastatals.

In an interview with The Times Of India regarding the city’s smart city proposal, Vinod Chamoli, mayor of Dehradun, said: “The proposed electric buses will have GPS and the bus schedule will be available at touchscreen kiosks at bus stops… We have also included water ATMs which will be run using solar energy and 26 bio-digestor toilets in the proposal.”

Smart city challenges

However, factors such as lack of adequate funding, skilled workforce and technological advancements is slowing down the pace of the Smart Cities Mission.

This is evidenced by the government’s failure to allocate adequate funds for the implementation of smart city projects.

For instance, according to the Hindustan Times, whilst Chandigarh was supposed to receive R200 ($30.7 million) in funding for its smart city projects during the first year, the city only received R71 crore ($10.9 million).

Chandigarh city had planned to implement projects on smart parking, smart water and electric meters and replacement of streetlights with LED models.

Smart city agreements

At the same time, the absence of competent local companies to execute smart city projects is resulting in cities and states seeking assistance from international companies. A number of Memorandum of  Understandings and partnership agreements have been signed between India and international governments, institutions and solution providers to simplify deployment of smart city projects.

Last week, Chandigarh signed an agreement with French-based engineering and urban development firm Egis International for the provision of the company’s consulting services in the deployment of the city’s smart city project.

Following agreements with states of Rajasthan and Gurajat, IE Singapore signed a deal with Pune Municipal Corporation to allow over 15 Singapore-based urban solution providers to participate in smart city projects in Pune.

In the last quarter of 2016, the state of Maharashtra and the Canadian government agreed to jointly research, draft and implement a plan to improve the state’s urban infrastructure through the adoption of various smart city technologies.

The MoU allows Canadian firms, universities colleges to collaborate with the Maharashtra state government in developing innovative technologies. The signing of the agreement means Canada will increase its financial assistance to India in the energy, smart water, transport and housing sectors.

Apart from Canadian IT firms, Maharashtra selected software company Oracle for the design, testing and implementation of the firm’s smart city solutions.

Communication infrastructure development

In a press statement, Oracle said it will use its cloud services to improve communications between the government and citizens and between governments and businesses in some 29,000 villages in Maharashtra.

Oracle will also develop some 1,200 wi-fi connectivity hotspots in the state.

Agreements for the provision of telecommunication services including 5G Networks were signed between Indian states and IoT network providers Nokia and Ericsson, reported Bureaucracy Today and Digit.

In October 2016, the Economic Times reported the signing of a deal between Russia and India which allows the Asian state to use IT technologies developed by Russian firms in the country’s Smart Cities Mission.

Smart city funding and skills development

The Indian government has also urged states to seek public-private partnership in financing their smart city developments.

In March, the New Development Bank highlighted that it will offer between $300 million and $500 million towards the implementation of smart city projects in India, reported Business Standards.

Locally, efforts to improve the country’s skilled workforce in the IoT sector has been characterised by the recent signing of MoU between the National Skills Development Corporation (NSDC) and the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).

The two parties agreed to jointly develop e-learning content for skilling in smart cities.

“For effective development of any smart city, skilled workforce is required and this MoU will work towards realising the Smart City Mission envisioned by Prime Minister,” Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Rajiv Pratap Rudy said. [Analysis: Energy efficiency initiatives in India].


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