Smart and Sustainable Cities for the 21st Century
When people think about ‘smart-sustainable cities’, they sometimes focus only on digital solutions. we opine that cities need to make the most of both, physical and soft infrastructure which is especially relevant, in the case of emerging market countries in the 21st century.
To enhance the quality of living, a smart city employs technological initiatives that can range from: efficient use of traffic signal system, improving public transport, to the installation of CCTV cameras across the city, building waste/water management systems etc. It is of utmost importance for cities to find customized solutions and address challenges, at an individual level.
The idea is to take inspiration from successful smart city programs and then analyze the requirements and feasibility, in the proposed city’s context. It is important to note, that a smart city concept which has been successful in Singapore, may or may not work for a city in India without assisted help from a supplementary legal framework and governance reforms.
In smart city projects such as Singapore, the centralized focus of the government was on the improvement of their traffic system. The total number of cars in Singapore has been curbed by issuing limited driving licenses and applying further controls like the number of cars on the road at a certain time thereby, reducing traffic congestions. One of their most successful traffic-system ideas is the card-swipe system used at pedestrian crossings, which lets the elderly or people with disabilities swipe a card, buying themselves a little more time to cross.
While in India, if you are automating traffic violations and trying to track offenders, the first hurdle, will be the authenticity of registered data. More often than not, there are discrepancies in the issued RCs (Registration Certificates) versus actual residential addresses, due to the lack of appropriate supervision/updating of the system. Hence, one of the challenges that India will have to wrestle with while advancing towards developing smart cities, is the employment of an effective regulatory framework, ensuring the automatic updating/upgrading of government databases. A smart city must also have a great deal of autonomous control over its zoning, transportation and land use, which would enable necessary decisions to be made at a city level, as opposed to, only at the state level.
It’s advisable for the smart city advocates in India, to not get distracted by the latest and greatest innovations. The real challenge of the Smart Cities Mission lies in figuring out local priorities; making each city, a smart-sustainable community, in a way that truly serves its citizens. This way, focusing on micro-level city-based problems will lead to reforms, at a macro level.