Editor’s note: The following is a guest post by Sreenath Venkatesan, Vice President, Smarter Planet Solutions, IBM India/South Asia
Fast-paced urbanization and development of mega cities is considered a sure sign of prosperity. It suggests the workings of a robust economy, better opportunities, more jobs and more money to spend. Consulting firm McKinsey predicts that Indian cities will be in a position to create 70% of all new jobs over the next 20 years – jobs that will attract a significantly higher ratio of rural population into the cities.
Just goes to prove that cities are fast emerging as hubs of modernization and development across countries. In fact, world over, the urban population of developing countries is expected to rise from 35% (1990) to over 50% by 2020.
As our cities take on a greater role in the overall development of countries, the need for high quality infrastructure assumes added importance – in terms of making these urban clusters better prepared and equipped to deal with the burgeoning mass of people. However, this has not been the case with Indian cities, where infrastructure has grown at a slow pace compared to the influx of people. Considering that we live in a world of finite resources, problems arising due to scarcity of water, land, skills and energy resources are only going to multiply over time.
Smarter cites around the world are leveraging technology to optimize their resources and improve the efficiency of their infrastructure. For instance, Malta has implemented a smart grid system for monitoring and optimizing utilities like electricity and water. Singapore’s eSymphony transport system and the initiative by the Japanese city of Kitakyushu to implement a low-carbon emission society are other examples of how efficiencies have been created with the help of smarter systems.
Some of the cities have gone a step ahead to develop eco-friendly infrastructure for sustainable growth. Dubuque, for instance, has partnered with IBM to work on a comprehensive plan for green buildings and community design, healthy local food and protecting native plants and animals. Data collection technologies and analytics are also being used to create insights and take informed decisions.
These smarter cities are seeing value in partnering with technology companies with proven ability and experience in implementing projects of this magnitude. It not only helps derive greater value from such initiatives, but also allows the partners to better focus on their other welfare and development activities. Among the Indian cities, the Municipality of Mysore has partnered with Jamshedpur Utilities & Services Company (JUSCO) for improving its water supply management system.
Smart use of technology can go a long way in transforming a city’s core systems. It can help create an efficient transport management system, improve healthcare facilities and develop a robust communication network to connect all businesses, people and systems. Smart systems can also provide an efficient mechanism to control and manage the use of fast-depleting resources such as water, land and energy. By using finite resources in a smarter way, cities can boost innovation and productivity, thus achieving greater competitiveness. Cities built on smarter systems would be better equipped to survive and prosper in the new environment.
Do you recall any smarter city initiatives in your area? What is your take on city administrations spending money on developing smart systems to monitor and manage infrastructure instead of play ingthe catch up game? Is there a need for cities to partner with specialists in different areas (e.g. technology or water supply management) to deliver improved value to its citizens ?