Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Smart Cities: International Knowledge Sharing

Writing this from Delhi Airport. Attended day-long seminar organised by World Bank and Ministry of Finance, Govt of India. This was on Smart Cities. Although it is Saptami today, I preferred to be away from Kolkata to see what the international experts had to say.

Right at the outset, Greg Clark warned that one should be careful of fads: some jargons that come and go have been:
Enterpreneural Cities, Competitive Cities, Liveable Cities, Sustainable Cities, Global Cities, Creative Cities, Innovative Cities, Intelligent Cities, Open Cities, Smart Cities, Future Cities, Resilent Cities, Flexible Cities etc.
Definitions of smart cities have also been pretty varied.
He concluded by saying that it is not an IT solution; rather, it is an alignment of good governance, investment, institutions and time. We all agreed to this.

Throughout the day, different speakers spoke from various angles. Korean case studies were very appropriate and I exchanged cards with a lot of them. It'd be good to get more details from them, I think. Martin Rama, Chief Economist for South Asia, World Bank came up with the rather dazzling theory of measuring productivity of cities in terms of intensity night lights per capita. Going by his analysis, Haldia is the top productive city of India. I didn't know how to react ! SMS information system for bus arrival data in real time, stressing on mixed land use, having luminous road markings, volume based garbage disposal fees with free disposal of food waste and a goal for (personal) Car Free by 2030 (Hamberg) were some of the small but clever things that can be done easily.

A picture on my mobile:

Seminar on Smart Cities
Hotel Taj Mansingh, Delhi, 1 Oct 2014
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Here is a clipping from  Khabar 365:
Khabar 365 dt 1.10.2014


  1. Wow! Must have been a wonderful session. I recall a case study we had to do many days ago on how to implement IT in an organized complexity situation like city/town management. It would be interesting to know how the cities were managed - by a single nodal agency or by a consortium or by a group of different authorities with a defined segregation of duties.
    Also, how do you rate the governance model of these cities compared to the model we have in Kolkata/ other Indian cities?

  2. I have a suggestion here. Can we have the Dceades old Town and Country planning Act amended to enforce wider roads, wide sidewalks and underground sewerage?

    Many pvt townships are getting built in and around New Town with narrow roads ( 20 feet / 30 feet) with no proper roads and sewerage. In future, these pieces of infrastructure are going to get maintained by HIDCO only ( the way KMC now maintains the infrastructure built by cooperatives like Metropolitan Cooperative, Survey Park cooperative etc).

    In this way, Dept of Urban Affairs can ensure some basic planned urbanization for upcoming areas as well as reduce the future burden of HIDCO.

    Also can we ensure the online booking of tickets for New Town tour through HIDCO website / WB Tourism website?

  3. Good that there is a vision for smart cities. But at the execution level we are way off.

    Dry season is round the corner and we will have the Bidhannagar Municipality staff burning dry leaves early in the morning making the morning walkers take in carcinogenic air instead of the fresh air that they go out in search for. I have taken up the matter in writing with the local councilor last winter but there has been no change. So, in effect, we pay taxes to the Municipality to burn leaves!!! This is a total violation of the Solid Waste Management guidelines.

    I am kind to animals and have attended to suffering stray dogs in the past. But now dogs are a menace in Salt Lake. Local councilor says that they cannot touch the dogs since it amounts to cruelty to animals. The local councilor says conservancy workers refuse to clean the dog droppings on the road. Taking this opportunity dog owners in Salt Lake make their pets dirty the roads and the parks. Where is the concept of cleanliness and hygiene? The municipality has to find a way out.

    When the foothpath is being repaired, the stones are left on the road for weeks blocking half of the road!! No one cares if there is an accident!!

    Road dividers are raised so high so that there is chance of tripping over when crossing. But in front of a particular mall there are passage ways. So, looks like care is needed only for people going to the mall. What about the rest of Salt Lake? There have been deaths in Sector 5 thanks to the road dividers.

    Openings in road dividers in Salt Lake and Sector 5 are made at a distance from the connecting roads. Result is most drivers drive the wrong way against the up coming traffic. Looks like the road dividers were thought of by someone who had no clue about driving. No other major city in the world has such an issue.

    Do we have any enforcement of safety/convenience norm that firms constructing flyovers and metro rail need to follow to ensure minimum trouble to the public?

    No one thinks about all this! These sound insignificant issues but these are basic. We need to set the basics right. Smart cities will come only when we get back to basics and set them right. Build the city around the people and their needs and convenience and not the other way around!

    Very important for those with policy making and enforcement power to empathize. I am the son of a retired bureaucrat and have the highest respect for govt. officials and workers. But the lack of connect of the govt. folks with the people is increasing day by day. Unless one connects, he will never know what is needed. If you do not know what is needed.... you will be way off the dream of having our best cities in India.