ICT Adoption By Civic Bodies To Drive Smart Cities

by CXOtoday News Desk    Nov 26, 2014


French electrical equipment maker Schneider Electric, which is working on over 200 smart city projects across various countries, has highlighted the importance of ICT for Smart Cities, in a recent survey. Giving India as an example, where it says if the NDA Government’s vision of 100 Smart Cities is to become a reality, ICT adoption by civic agencies would be the most crucial to convert existing cities into smart cities.

In India, the company has surveyed the first most likely 53 cities from the hundreds of eligible cities that would be on the government’s agenda for conversion into smart cities. The report said the scope and scale for ICT varies across cities, depending upon their size, needs, financial resources and approach to ICT by the city’s top management, which included Municipal Commissioners and IT heads. Presently, most civic agencies have implemented IT modules in e-governance.

ICT by civic bodies

Elaborating on the highlights of the ‘ICT in Urban Governance – Survey’ report by India Infrastructure Research, Anil Chaudhry, President and Country Head, Schneider Electric India, said, “The major benefits from ICT adoption would be efficiency and transparency, with majority of civic agencies mentioning this. Around 84% of survey respondents believe costs savings and promoting citizen participation would be the other benefits.”

Presently however, about 80% civic agencies allocate less than 1% of their budgets to ICT. A majority expect less than 10% increase in IT budgets over the next two years, leaving immense scope for expansion. Ironically, although nine of out 10 of civic agencies believe ICT will ensure tremendous benefits in terms of transparency and accountability, actual allocations are less than 1-5%, finds the survey, with many states spending much less than the allocated amounts.

The study found while 65% of civic agencies have implemented online property tax solutions, the rest will offer this by 2016, says the study. The most common solution adopted by more than 85% was E-tendering. Also, more than 75% of cities have ICT-enabled services that benefit citizens, such as issue of birth and death certificates, customer grievance redressal and establishment of civic centres/e-seva kendras.

According to the report, the major demand for ICT solutions will arise from the creation of smart grids and smart public services. Top ICT solutions to be implemented in future will be integrated healthcare; GPS-enabled handsets for grid inspection, education management, street light management; water management; passenger information systems and GPS-based billing; and power quality monitoring, says the study noting that GPS-based vehicle tracking has been adopted by more than 65% and Intelligent street lighting facilities have either been implemented or are under implementation by more than 40% of civic agencies.

The key hurdles

The report however says capacity constraints and integration of legacy data are major challenges in ICT implementation. Limited capacity at the city level was one of the biggest management concerns, as per about 70% of civic agencies. Other major hurdles are lack of technical knowhow and change management, while some cities say coordination among various departments and delay in administrative approvals would be a challenge. Low IT outlays, lack of customization, limited IT personnel as well as lack of administrative and political will would be the other challenges.

“A key to making smart cities a reality is to integrate several systems into a cohesive framework that allows collaborative data sharing and real-time information management,” says Chaudhry, who believes that successful implementation by other cities should, however, inspire others to opt for faster adoption of ICT solutions.

Singapore for example can be an example that can offer its smart city lessons to other cities states across the world, including India. At a recent HDS Innovation Summit in Singapore, Lim Kok Kiang, Asst MD, Singapore Economic Development Board, recently highlights some interesting points on how the government, industry and academia collaborated in Singapore’s smart city phenomenon. Elaborating on the Singapore model of smart cities, he states that “Singapore as a city state always kept in mind its future needs while planning for current needs.”

Read: India’s Smart Cities: Lesson From Singapore

According to Neville Vincent, VP and GM, APAC, Hitachi Data Systems, “It is first important to achieve social innovation through emerging technologies such as big data to generate, capture communicate and retrieve user experience. All these will contribute to smart cities in the future.”

Chaudhry also believes that the help of Smart City specialists could play a key role in ensuring ICT and IT outlays are used judiciously and not left unspent.”