Smart Cities Mission: Expediting Nation-Wide Transformation

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While picturing a ‘Smart City’, one usually conjures up the images of ultra-modern infrastructure and digitally enhanced services designed to meet the aspirations of the citizens. In the current context, it requires a revamp of the entire urban eco-system by undertaking comprehensive development of 4 core areas — Institutional, Physical, Social and Economic Infrastructure.

In India, nearly 31% of the current population lives in urban areas and contributes 63% of the country’s GDP (Census 2011). Following the trend, these areas are expected to house 40% of India’s population and contribute 75% of the GDP by 2030.

The Smart Cities mission reflects the hopes and aspirations of millions of citizens of India. Along with the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) and Housing for All in urban areas, it intends to set in motion the process of urban transformation and enable better living standards for people from all strata of society.

In the build-up to the Smart Cities initiative, the objectives were clearly laid down. The idea was to promote cities that leverage advanced infrastructure and deliver a decent quality of life to its citizens, a clean and sustainable environment and astute application of ‘Smart’ Solutions. The focus is going to be on sustainable and inclusive development with a view to create a replicable model which will act like a light house to other aspiring cities.

Technology as an Enabler

Needless to say, technology is a key enabler for smart city projects. Whether it is the execution, monitoring, control, audit or continuity at various levels, the decision makers will need to leverage technology to ensure easy access to project data and information – a key imperative for the smooth functioning of the project.

Let’s see how aligning right technology the smart way could expedite the national transformation.

The operational requirements for Smart Cities could be categorized as:

·           The need to document store and retrieve content in a convenient and reliable manner

·           An imperative to streamline and expedite the citizen and stakeholder service delivery process

·           The importance of reaching out to citizens to induce awareness and promote participation

·           The need to monitor, control and appraise the project itself in an iterative manner

·           A commitment towards wide availability, citizen coverage and adoption of new-age technology

To identify the right technology, the alternatives need to be assessed both on the breadth of applicability as well as the depth of relevance. For instance, BPM (Business Process Management) ensures an end-to-end streamlining of processes in a scalable and integrated manner. ECM (Enterprise Content Management) manages content in context and high-volume documentation with well-laid out standards. It will be interesting to think about bringing together the inherent benefits of these two converging technologies on a unified platform.

A combination of BPM and ECM platforms, owing to features such as flexibility, agility, ease of integration and scalability could well deliver a considerable impact in the working areas of ‘Smart City’ project. This impact could be realized via departmental efficiency, resource productivity, citizen coverage, citizen engagement, and dynamic management of unexpected challenges or roadblocks.

Laying the roadmap ahead

The broad working areas of Smart City projects in India are:

·           Smart Water and Waste Management

·           Smart Environment

·           Smart Urban Planning

·           Smart Buildings

·           Smart IT & Communications

·           Smart Security and Safety

·           Smart Grid

·           Clean Energy

Looking more closely, these constitute a network of several individual, inter-linked, end-to-end processes which are similar in principle. This inter-twined, mammoth project structure would also generate, store and process a lot of data, information and content on a daily basis. Then, this information also needs to be regularly shared with stakeholders such as citizens, business and various levels of the government itself.

This suggests the need for a comprehensive IT platform that can integrate the project management function and monitoring. BPM is capable of automating and streamlining a wide variety of processes. Its salient features include process modeller and simulator, workflow and rules, administration, monitoring and analytics, dynamic case management, Master Data Management (MDM) etc. ECM is a comprehensive solution to facilitate Citizen Services Delivery, Document Management, Capture & Imaging, Records Management, Correspondence Management etc.

A holistic adoption of technology also requires the vendor experience and credentials to be evaluated well before the choice is made. It’s also critical that the vendor understands the project requirement to assess feasibility and articulates it well. He is expected to pin-point the project KRAs, budget, resources and timeline. A good vendor would stay on to support the project through its planning, implementation, monitoring, review and control stages. Vendors should also be well-versed with the emerging trends such as Social, Mobility, Analytics and Cloud and ingrain them seamlessly into their offerings.

As such, there is little reason why technology can’t become one of the differentiating factors of the Smart Cities program.

To conclude, aligning right technology the smart way is a desirable step to realize the dream of smart cities – the building block of a smart nation. A combination of technologies such as BPM, ECM ably supported by new-age technologies such as cloud, social, mobile and analytics could go a long way in accelerating institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure development and making it percolate to the ground level.