Tech Cos Eye Govt's Digital India, Smart Cities Projects

by Sohini Bagchi    Mar 05, 2015

smart city

Until now, global software companies in India were mostly wary of government contracts. But the government’s Digital India projects and Smart Cities initiatives, have already lured a large number of multinationals to join some of the recent IT projects. After the announcement of the allocation of $1.2 billion in the Union Budget 2014-15 for developing 100 smart cities and other IT projects - some of them through public-private partnerships, technology firms including Cisco and IBM submitted proposals to bid for projects.

The urban development ministry’s Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) has also undertaken an Expression of Interest process to shortlist several technology consultants. The government said it will back at least seven large cities for high-tech upgrades and many more satellite smart cities abutting metropolises to begin with.

The opportunity is so vast that technology companies are willing to make big investments. Experts believe that while smart city projects are underway in many parts of the world, in India there is the potential is incomparable, believe experts. According to reports, India will urbanize so rapidly that by 2030, over 50% of its population will dwell in its cities. Reports estimate that by 2025, India will have 30 cities with 10 million or more residents, with Delhi set to become the most populous city in the world.

According to an IBM official, “The opportunity is so exciting more so because India is not shackled by existing technologies, one can  create smart cities from the ground up.”

Cisco, which believes this is the right time to build smart cities in India already has its global business unit for smart cities headquartered in Bangalore. From there, the company designs and exports smart city solutions to cities like Barcelona.

Tech major Hitachi Data Systems is also looking at being a part of the smart city project by focusing on its converged infrastructure initiative in the country. The company is in talks with the Indian government to extend its expertise in convergence technologies for enterprises in telecom, healthcare and e-governance.

 Neville Vincent, the company’s senior VP and GM for Asia-Pacific said the company will continue to focus on social innovation solutions and technologies in India that can boost renewable energy capabilities, ensure effective communication and improve healthcare facilities. These in turn will facilitate PM Narendra Modi’s smart cities initiatives.

Read more: India’s Smart Cities: Lesson From Singapore

Just like HDS, Cisco too believes that very little technology has been put to use to solve urban challenges like traffic, security, or water supply and healthcare and is gearing up to do so. For instance, Cisco has partnered with Electronics City Industries’ Association (ELCIA), Bangalore’s IT hub and worked towards making free Wi-Fi connectivity ubiquitous in the area. The learning will be leveraged by the company to build five of the 21 smart cities in India, the gigantic $100-billion Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor that connects the two key cities in the country.

Another tech firm NEC is looking to convert smart cities into safer cities, through its smart cities innovative solutions, which covers areas such assensing, authentication, monitoring, control, and cloud computing. Currently, it is open for technology partnership and working on its business model to work with the global and local partners.

“We are looking to put in smarter ways of communication, public safety, transportation, and overall governance to empower India. The strategy has worked for Japan and several other countries, and is equally revelant in India if smart cities have to become a reality,” says Koichiro Koide, MD, NEC India. To read the full interview, CLICK HERE.

More IT projects have been moving to a PPP model, believes Nasscom. Haryana’s e-government model has two projects being executed on a public private-partnership model — the software wide area network and the common services centres. Even the central government’s eBiz project, aimed at improving the ease of business, is being deployed on a PPP model, reads an ET report.

According to R. Chandrasekhar, President, Nasscom, if the new model take off, it will benefit even the domestic IT market, in which the government is one of the largest spenders. Government IT spending this year is expected to top Rs 42,000 crore ($7 billion), according to consultancy Gartner.