Smart cities – Leading India’s Digital Transformation

By Saurabh Sanghoee

Big problems need smart solutions. In India, there were about 148,000 road deaths in 2015, something that needs to be addressed. Around 32.1 lakh people could die in road accidents from 2016 till 2030, according to a study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS). The opportunity was there to do something dramatic about it, since 15 percent of these road deaths could immediately be prevented through faster response time.

And that’s where technology can play its part by implementing mechanisms to improve traffic flow and alert emergency services faster. Make cities smarter and we can see a highly positive impact on people’s lives through improved services, activities, utilities, processes and procedures.

Cities – Places of Continuous Change

Cities have evolved from being clusters of people staying together for safety reasons, to becoming thriving centers of business and commerce. After the industrial revolution, the cities became all about trade and today the world’s biggest cities are about business. Along with this, came a need to provide support and services to the people living in the cities and empowering the trade. So, we come to cities 2.0, or rather a smart city.

A smart city takes the traditional city model and makes it about the quality of life for its residents living there. The cities of the future are not just about trade and commerce but improving people’s way of life is central to this new model. And here, digital solutions are the essential enablers.

Helping Cities and Citizens Reach Goals

In my own country, India, there is now a government initiative in place to establish 100 smart cities around the country, powered by IT and delivering next generation services, processes and ways of living to residents and companies. They are also designed to attract investments, encouraging global multinational corporations (MNCs) to set up operations there. With government investment to the tune of $1.2 billion, smart cities are the future for the burgeoning urban population predicted to reach 800 million by 2050.
Delivering on this vision requires the right digital solutions and tools though. Whether talking about public safety, education, health or other essential public services; they are all enhanced by digital solutions. There are already simple technological tools in place such as location-based services, but these will grow and evolve to deliver far more to inhabitants.

Better Services, Better for All

Smart city projects are helping transform today’s cities into the cities of tomorrow – and one way they are doing this is by maximizing resources. By utilizing smart lighting systems for example, India’s cities will enjoy more efficient processes and save energy.
The impact on transport that I mentioned earlier is another big leap forward. Accident response time are improved and thanks to the use of sensors plus monitoring and analysis tools, the dense nature of urban traffic can be eased, again, improving the quality of life for all citizens.

The evidence is now there. In one smart city-based pilot project implemented by the Indian Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, GPS-enabled ambulances were stationed at 2-kilometer intervals on the highway between Gurgaon and Jaipur and connected to a central control room. Doing this meant ambulances could be 15 minutes faster reaching an accident point, again demonstrating the positive impact of technology-enabled public services. In developed countries, properly coordinated early rescue systems plus in-hospital trauma management help prevent a lot of deaths from road accidents. In smart cities, this type of system becomes the norm.

Further examples of successful initiatives in India are there to see too. In Patna, centrally-monitored CCTV coverage of roads and intersections is now being used to monitor and detect traffic violations and speeding, while in Tamil Nadu, a free 108 emergency transportation service has helped save 120,271 road traffic accident victims through timely interventions. These services also helped lower the infant mortality rate from 35 to 22 per 1,000 live births. These figures are significant.
All about relationships
Ultimately the success of India’s 100 smart cities program – and indeed other smart city initiatives around the world – rest on the core relationship between people and the city itself. If the city leverages ICT to deliver smart, life-enhancing services and processes, the city will thrive and people will have the tools and systems to enjoy a simpler, more flexible way of life.
The most commonly talked about things are all based around this relationship; ubiquitous access, cloud-based infrastructure with open APIs other associated factors like verifiable digital identity, intelligent systems and automation across processes are all vital to ensuring this successful symbiotic relationship.

In my view, the success of a smart city will rest on this relationship between people and the city’s processes and services. This trade-off between citizens and the value and convenience that the city gives to them will drive today’s cities forward into tomorrow.

(The author is Head of Global Solutions and Services, India – Orange Business Services)

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