by Ivan Fernandes
About the author:
Ivan Fernandes is the Chairman and Managing Director of Regent Technologies Ltd., a company specializing in consulting, incubation and investments. Ivan is a successful serial entrepreneur who has built several start-ups into well-known brands including Ducont - a leader in providing corporate mobility solutions and Synectics - that was the leader in front-end banking solutions in the nineties. Regent has also funded some successful start-ups including Track IT Solutions and Tricolor Investments. Under his leadership Ducont has won several global awards for its solutions from Microsoft, Dubai Government and GSM Congress in Cannes, France.
He was instrumental in the creation of Kanara Entrepreneurs in Dubai in the year 2004 to unite successful entrepreneurs hailing from the Kanara region and initiate various programs to promote entrepreneurship in this region. Today, he continues to lead this organization as its Chairman with chapters in Dubai and Bangalore.
Mangaluru, Sep 24 : On 20th September, the Urban development ministry announced Mangaluru as part of the 27 new cities to be developed as Smart City. With this announcement the central government has now announced 60 cities in India to be developed as Smart Cities over the next five years where the initial funding is provided equally by the state and central governments to the tune of Rs. 1000 cr per city. Already several comments have been made by our readers on this decision and what it means. I thought to dwell some time to understand the impact of this decision on our home town – what is it, in what way will it help us as residents and what is the buzz all about.
So what is a Smart City? A Smart City is an urban development vision to integrate the latest technology (Information and Communications Systems or ICT and Internet of Things or IoT) solutions in a secure manner to manage the city’s assets in a much more efficient and productive manner that will result in overall improvement of quality of services provided to the city’s residents. The city’s assets include but not limited to, the information systems of various corporation and municipal offices, schools, public libraries, transportation systems, hospitals, energy and utility providers (electricity, water, drainage, waste management etc.), law enforcement and other community services. In other words, a Smart City will bridge the gap between the traditional way of handling and operating various services to more efficient and smarter ways through the deployment of technology that will improve the overall speed and quality of such services. This will also result is better interactivity between the citizens and the government, thereby providing better management of urban flows resulting in real time responses to challenges.
This vision is true for all governments globally, but the process of implementation and its impact depends on the various strategies applied by them and this is where each one becomes unique. There are several case studies available on how different cities have adapted technologies to serve them better.
In India, the urban development ministry asked States to nominate its cities to compete in smart city business plan contest last year with the option of choosing 20 best plans for implementation in last year’s finance budget.Each state conducted its own business contest to nominate its cities for the national level contest. Each nominated city had to provide its bold vision for the city and its priorities for meeting the aspirations of its citizens. It had to provide a Pan-city initiative, whereby through the use of smart solutions how it could impact the lives of many if not, all its citizens. Each plan had to include an area-based development plan which aimed at transforming an existing area that would protect its identity or heritage. Of the plans received, 98 cities were shortlisted of which 20 were selected for implementation in the first list of smart cities in January this year.
While Mangaluru lost out in this list in spite of having the maximum scores in the state level contest, it got its due in the list announced on September 20, 2016. Mangaluru’s core business plan is built around preserving its heritage as a port city by redeveloping the areas around the old port i.e. Bunder and Car Street areas. In addition, it has put forward various other green field developments for the benefit of its citizens. Its vision statement as submitted for the Smart City contest is “A clean and green port city, nurtured by a vibrant community of educated and industrious citizens with pluralistic cultural heritage, driven by innovation, entrepreneurship, knowledge and health care services, using eco friendly technology to develop efficient infrastructure and accountable governance systems providing equal opportunity with affordable, safe and quality urban life.”
To substantiate this vision, two smart solution proposals were submitted which had the highest weightage in the citizen feedback that was requested by the MangaluruCity Corporation. That included providing a ‘One Touch Mangaluru’ app on mobile phones to provide integrated access to all important public services at one touch such as intelligent traffic management, online corporation services & payments, information of air & noise pollution in the city, information on trains, flights and their status, tourism guide, direct reporting by citizens on various issues such as cleanliness, non-functioning of public amenities, potholes on roads etc., and direct filing of complaints and suggestions against irregularities.
The second was implementation of Smart utility solutions, for smart metering of utilities such as electricity and water, detect water and electricity pilferage, and better monitoring and control on solid waste management. All this will lead to higher productivity of government services, better control of utilities, tracking on mismanagement, effective collection of charges and timely responses to complaints and suggestions. In addition, other area based developments are recommended that improve the lives of citizens through development of sports city and wellness centre, entertainment and leisure city and upgrading our railway stations. Economic hubs suggested include development of an IT Park and a financial/hi-tech city.
The implementation of these plans is done through a Special Purpose Vehicle “SPV” that will include stakeholders from the central government, state government as well as private nominees. All these projects are executed in Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The SPV is responsible for approving and monitoring the developments thereby providing a single window clearance for these projects and overriding any potential red tape that could block such developments if routed through the traditional routes.
Now that the city is formally approved to be a Smart City, it is the responsibility of the state government to finalize the terms of the SPV and get it incorporated at the earliest, finalize the projects, participation of private development partners and investors for each one of them and get on with the execution in the shortest possible time. Hopefully, we all get to feel the impact of these new solutions in the coming years, but the impact will only be effectiveprovided the citizens also adapt to these changes positively. Ultimately, technology is only an enabler and its effectivenessis judged by its citizens through its use. So instead of being back benchers, let’s all join together to make it happen – let the combined smartness of the people of Mangaluru lead the development of this city so that it becomes a unique Smart City model for others to follow.