By Amitabh Kant
Before I got my current job, I played a major role in creating and implementing the Incredible India marketing campaign, which was aimed at attracting tourism and foreign investment to my country. The campaign was a great success. Yet India still faces huge challenges. Over the next few decades, it’s estimated than 700 million Indians will move from the rural villages and towns to the cities. That’s an average of about 30 people arriving per minute. It’s the biggest urbanization phenomenon in the history of the world.
There’s no way that India’s existing cities could absorb this mass migration, so we have to build new cities and new, modern infrastructure to serve them. Unlike the cities that grew up in the United States in the 19th and 20th centuries, we don’t have abundant supplies of land, energy and water. So we have to build cities in far more innovative and sustainable ways. They have to be compact, dense, vertical, and built on the back of an extensive mass transit system. To build vast new cities today based on the private automobile and the stand-alone house is unsustainable. We’ll also have to recycle water and waste.
This is the conceptual underpinning for the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor. Today, it takes 14 days to ship goods from manufacturing plants in northern India to the port in Mumbai. Once we build the new dedicated freight rail lines along the corridor, such goods movements will take 14 hours. That’s a major paradigm shift.
Alongside the rail corridor, we’ll build new roads, electrical services, water systems and housing. In order to achieve the 9% to 10% gross domestic product growth that India needs, we will have to add approximately 100 million manufacturing jobs over the coming decade. We envision many of these jobs being created by private industry along the corridor. Once we build the infrastructure, we expect Indian and foreign firms to invest in building new plants and facilities there.
In order for all of this new infrastructure to deliver on its promise, it needs to be coordinated. That’s where the IOC technology comes in. In each of the 24 new cities we plan to build along the corridor, all of the data from the infrastructure systems will feed into a central command room, so managers will know immediately what’s happening in the city and can respond quickly when problems arise–or even anticipate them and head off trouble. Transportation, electricity, public safety, security, water, and government records of all types will be available–and not just for city managers but for all of the citizens, as well. The smarter cities of the Delhi-Mumbai corridor will be transparent cities.
I neglected to mention one of the most important types of physical infrastructure we plan on installing at the beginning of the construction process: broadband communications networks. We contemplate providing broadband Internet access to every household in the new cities. In the end, creating the smarter cities of the future is really about empowering the citizens of India with information and connectivity, so they can educate their children, improve their health, manage their lives better and connect to the world.