Tech­nol­ogy alone won't de­liver smart cities. That would re­quire in­no­va­tive de­sign and cre­ativ­ity in solv­ing prob­lems

Down to Earth - - OPINION - MIHIR BHOLEY

Whave al­lowed ur­ban­i­sa­tion to grow out of pro­por­tion, HILE WE we have failed to con­tain the sharp de­cline in the qual­ity of ur­ban life.Maybe our con­tem­po­rary ap­proaches to ur­ban­i­sa­tion of­fer only short-term, quick fix so­lu­tions. No doubt, offering a per­ma­nent so­lu­tion for some­thing as com­plex and evolv­ing as ur­ban­i­sa­tion is eas­ier said than done. The need for short and long-term strate­gies for sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion can­not be ruled out.The rea­son is sim­ple: by the mid­dle of this cen­tury,nearly 70 per cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion will be liv­ing in ur­ban ar­eas, and ur­ban­is­ing In­dia will sur­pass all na­tions, even China.In­dia will add 497 mil­lion ad­di­tional peo­ple to its ex­ist­ing and emerg­ing cities by then.

So for a vi­able so­lu­tion we’re look­ing at smart cities.It’s a new tech­nol­ogy-in­ten­sive ap­proach to ur­ban in­no­va­tion,where tech­nol­ogy mon­i­tors and drives ur­ban sys­tems.The Union gov­ern­ment has cleared the Smart Cities Mis­sion and has sanc­tioned 48,000 crore for this ini­tia­tive.There’s no look­ing back now.

We are ex­cited be­cause we think build­ing smart cities will lead to a quan­tum jump to­wards re­defin­ing and redesigning our ur­ban land­scape, and scep­ti­cal,be­cause we can’t safely pre­dict how tech­no­log­i­cal in­ter­ven­tions can be as­sim­i­lated in our ex­ist­ing ur­ban sys­tems.Tech gi­ants Siemens, Hi­tachi, Cisco and oth­ers en­vi­sion smart cities as ur­ban ag­glom­er­a­tions hav­ing smart build­ings, in­tel­li­gent park­ing so­lu­tions, elec­tri­cal mo­bil­ity sup­ported by fast-charg­ing so­lar sta­tions,in­for­ma­tion con­trol sys­tems and so on.All this sounds like science fic­tion.We will have to find cre­ative ways to ap­ply this new par­a­digm to re­ju­ve­nate our ail­ing ur­ban sys­tems and achieve sus­tain­able ur­ban­i­sa­tion. Smart cities may re­quire some strate­gic de­sign in­ter­ven­tions at dif­fer­ent lev­els—from sys­tems and prod­ucts to com­mu­ni­ca­tion. Strate­gic de­sign in­ter­ven­tions do not mean re­plac­ing tech­nol­ogy with de­sign,rather aug­ment­ing it to make it more user-friendly and ef­fec­tive in terms of solv­ing com­plex ur­ban­i­sa­tion prob­lems.

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