Smarter Cities are defined as cities that provide sustainable economic growth and enhanced quality of life by leveraging information to make better decisions, anticipating problems to resolve them proactively, and, coordinating resources and processes to operate effectively.
How can cities become Smart by leveraging what they have? What kind of investments do we need to build a transformed city? Often, the thrust is on the kind of investment that needs to be pumped in to start the journey. 1 Trillion USD? You guessed it wrong.
There is a common misconception that “Smart Cities” would need tons of IT investment. While this is a truth to reach the nirvana stage, our city leaders can take small actionable steps in the right direction to imbibe smartness. What is required is a systemic thinking and a governance mechanism to engage citizens and the available infrastructure with common-sense tools to start on the journey of smart. Typically, cities have the highest mobile density and broadband penetration, and it is very easy to put these technologies to use to make cities smarter.
A strong collective will to use our resources optimally, and create infinite value out of it, can begin the journey towards a transformed planet, And, all this can be achieved by the innovative applications of the existing technologies, and available resources. How do we attain that? This needs better synergy between the ecosystem of city planners, municipalities, public and private entities.
Driving our cities as engines of economic growth would require an integrated approach, coupled with instrumentation, interconnectedness and intelligence. The above may seem to suggest that there is a need for strong infrastructure and instrumentation on top of it, so that cities can be viewed as a system of systems and can be managed accordingly.
Consider this. What do we get when social business can be put to use for citizen government interactions? The low hanging fruits on the journey to become a smarter city.
Some of the following examples cite some interesting innovations and how social business can be harnessed in the journey to smart. Imagine a scenario where there is mobile app that allows people to take photo of energy meter readings and upload to the utilities company’s website. On one hand, the citizens get a monetary discount and on the other the utility company gets accurate readings without investing in foot soldiers.
Think of a scenario where there is an app that allows people to take photos of violations (of any kind – traffic, unauthorized power tapping, water leakages and so on), geo tag it and upload to a website. Apart from allowing for faster resolution, this allows to create a pressure point on the local administration based on the number of complaints that come from any specific area (e.g. ward).
Another scenario could be where the traffic police can seek feedback on proposed one way rules (which is aplenty in many cities) or seek feedback on how to decongest certain stretches.
Well, the possibilities are enormous, and endless are the opportunities – all it takes is thought leadership and some jugaad innovation. Few steps in the right direction will ignite citizen participation in governance and that can be a self-propelling machine that takes a city to smarter level. Are we ready?
Check out other ideas for progress at India Onward, an IBM India initiative.