Investment in ICT can provide a better quality of life in the cities

smart-city

Cities are crucial to nations. They are the center of innovation, cultural and economic growth. With unique identity, cities have huge opportunities for business and employment.

Migration to urban areas is a big issue
MD Krishnamurthy, Chairman, Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development & Finance Corporation (KUIDFC), says, that this massive migration from rural to the urban area leads to the population explosion in the cities. “The massive growth and population induced migration from the rural area to urban areas results to the over-congested environment in the cities and causes overall deterioration of the urban environment in India. Increase in the low-quality migration of poor to urban areas leads to poverty inequality, and insecurity among migrants. Most of the poor are illiterate and lack basic skills. They fail to get jobs in the capital-intensive production system of urban India. These unskilled migrants are absorbed by unorganized sectors which are capitalized by low productivity, tremendous competition, poor pay, and insecurity,” says Krishnamurthy. “During the last few decades, there is a rise in housing scarcity and we can see frequent breakdowns in municipal services such as water supply and other services such as electricity, sewerage, and transport.”

Needed a new operating paradigm
Money is the first indispensable when talking about better infrastructure. But, is money the only factor which can solve the problems of migration. Krishnamurthy somehow has a different opinion on this. According to him, throwing more and more money is not a solution to this. The world needs a new operating paradigm that provides a solution that can sense urban needs, which is economically viable, socially inclusive, and environmentally sustainable. In such cases, technology can play a significant role. Krishnamurthy says, “Government and businesses are starting to recognize the role of technology in these objectives. ICT can improve connectivity between citizens and government. The investment in ICT can provide a better quality of life. It can enhance service quality and performance. It can be cost-effective and more sustainable. One of the main value propositions of ICT in a smart city is the ability to capture and share information in a timely manner.” The smart city transformation is powered by technology advancements. The deployment of intelligent and information management systems can contribute largely to it.

Important aspects of smart cities
A smart city is one which can ensure easy service delivery and quality life to the people. Some of the important aspects of smart cities are pure safe drinking water, water management, education, health, housing and inclusiveness, transport and mobility, energy supply, energy source , economy and employment, energy efficiency, sanitation, waste management, IT connectivity, intelligent government, safety, quality identity and culture, compactness, open space, and underground electricity wiring.

“Seven cities are proposed to be developed under smart city mission –  Belgavi, Davangere, Hubli, Dharwad, Shimoga. Tumkur and Mangalore. Apart from these cities, now Bangalore is also under this mission. The mission covers 100 plus cities and the duration will be five years that may extend depending on the outcome,” Krishnamurthy explains. Each city gets `100 crore from the center and the state government for a period of five years — a total of `1000 crore for five years. The smart city selection is based on the competition process. It is expected that the large part of the finances for smart cities will have to come from the private sector with the supplementing effort from state and the central government. Centre and state is an equal partner in this development.

Other challenges…
Building new cities and upgrading existing ones is not an easy task. The redevelopment of cities may take a lot of time. Besides there are some other challenges like continuous water supply, reduction in emergency stoppages, billing customers, reduction of water loss, round the clock customer service center, solving complaints under the time frame in the contract, and repair leaks appearing on the surface within 24 hours. Regarding the challenges, Krishnamurthy says, “Redeveloping the cities may take 2-3 decades. These projects are complex and expensive which creates a problem in kick-starting smart city projects. Regarding water management, Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has implemented the Karnataka Urban Water Sector Improvement Project. There is a 24/7 water supply under this project. This is a first of its kind in our country. It has been implemented in three cities of Karnataka and has also received an award from the Government of India,” he adds.

Smart city is not only about Physical infrastructure
“Does Smart city development depend only on its physical infrastructure? Is proper facility for road, electricity, and water etc, enough to make any city a Smart City? asks Krishnamurthy,” It also involves other big challenges like creating sustainability, jobs, wise usage of resources training. The idea is to make things working for the masses.  “The investment by the government will be the seed money for the projects. And, further investment is expected through a PPP (Public-private partnership) which throws lots of opportunities to the global players,” he adds.

The article is based on the presentation made at the Smart Infrastructure Symposium 2017, Chennai