smart Cities: Look­ing Back

Governance Now - - BOOK EXCERPT - Dr Sameer Sharma

The build­ing of cities is one of man’s great­est achieve­ments.

– Ed­mund Ba­con

The de­sign of the chal­lenge was partly based on a study con­ducted dur­ing the for­mu­la­tion of the smart cities Mis­sion guide­lines. a pro­fes­sional agency, com­mis­sioned by Bloomberg Phi­lan­thropies [knowl­edge part­ners to the Mis­sion], con­ducted an ethno­graphic sur­vey along with in­ter­views to ob­tain an in­sider’s point of view on the ex­pec­ta­tions from the Mis­sion. eight guid­ing prin­ci­ples emerged based on 66 in­ter­views (gov­ern­ment: 22; cit­i­zens: 14; ur­ban ex­perts and aca­demics: 30). These can be as­sumed to be a proxy for gen­eral ‘rules in use’ pre­vail­ing in self-or­gan­is­ing sys­tems. upon com­ple­tion of the first round of the Chal­lenge, an­other study was con­ducted by the lon­don school of eco­nomics (lse) to as­sess the im­pact of in­dia’s smart cities chal­lenge. one way of look­ing back is to place these eight ini­tial guid­ing prin­ci­ples next to the lessons from the lse study, and as­sess if the smart cities chal­lenge was suc­cess­ful in bringing out the ‘rules in use’ con­tained in the guid­ing prin­ci­ples. in the fol­low­ing sec­tions, the eight ini­tial guid­ing prin­ci­ples are jux­ta­posed with the lessons from the lse study. 1. Har­ness the power of cit­i­zens:

en­gaged cit­i­zens are a smart city’s

great­est re­source. Tap­ping that re­source re­quires in­ten­tion­al­ity to cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties for mean­ing­ful par­tic­i­pa­tion. it also means en­abling cit­i­zens to cel­e­brate the pro­gramme, their city, and its progress via so­cial me­dia and other means. Learning: The smart cities chal­lenge pro­moted an in­crease in par­tic­i­pa­tory ac­tiv­i­ties and means of cit­i­zen en­gage­ment at the city and neigh­bour­hood level. 2. Treat ev­ery in­ter­ac­tion as a learning op­por­tu­nity: lo­cal lead­ers recog­nise the need for ex­per­tise in ur­ban de­vel­op­ment and are call­ing out for help. The ap­pli­ca­tion process could cre­ate op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn at ev­ery stage, with no empty box-tick­ing. grow­ing a set of in­formed, em­pow­ered bu­reau­crats will make the mis­sion sus­tain­able.

Learning: The com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the process in­creased the in­cen­tive for city lead­ers to per­form well un­der pres­sure, work across de­part­ments, and fo­cus on the unique­ness of their cities. The com­pet­i­tive process al­lowed mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to take the ini­tia­tive, par­tic­u­larly as mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials had the space to de­ter­mine city pri­or­i­ties and vi­sions. city lead­ers, in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sion­ers and deputy com­mis­sion­ers, ben­e­fit­ted from ex­po­sure to in­ter­na­tional case stud­ies, new forms of fi­nance, and di­rect en­gage­ment with global ex­perts.

3. Part­ner up – Don’t do it alone: in­dia is brim­ming with will­ing col­lab­o­ra­tors, but they are of­ten mis­aligned, dis­con­nected, in con­flict, or wor­ried about ‘stick­ing their necks out’. an ideal process would align stake­hold­ers across gov­ern­ment, civil so­ci­ety, and cit­i­zens, and cre­ate shared and op­ti­misitic goals.

Learning: as a di­rect re­sponse to the com­pet­i­tive el­e­ment in the smart cities chal­lenge, cities were more in­clined to en­gage cit­i­zens, reach out to a set of pro­fes­sional ac­tors, and in­clude new ideas with pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment backed ini­tia­tives. 4. Cel­e­brate the In­dian city: For the first time, cities topped the na­tional agenda, and there was grow­ing ex­cite­ment and en­ergy around the role of cities in pro­pel­ling in­dia for­ward. a chal­lenge can ar­tic­u­late a dis­tinctly in­dian ver­sion of ur­ban smart­ness, si­mul­ta­ne­ously cap­tur­ing global at­ten­tion and fos­ter­ing lo­cal pride. Learning: The smart cities chal­lenge was per­ceived as be­ing in­stru­men­tal in pro­mot­ing a de­gree of flex­i­bil­ity for city gov­ern­ments and en­cour­ag­ing them to take ini­tia­tives while op­er­at­ing within an es­tab­lished fed­eral frame­work. The smart cities

chal­lenge sig­naled a shift in the bal­ance of power be­tween the city, state, and cen­tral gov­ern­ment. in­dian cities now have an im­mense op­por­tu­nity to build upon the mo­men­tum. in­dia’s ex­pe­ri­ence of nav­i­gat­ing this process will have im­pli­ca­tions and lessons for other rapidly ur­ban­is­ing re­gions. in that way, in­dia’s smart cities can be ‘light­houses’– not just for in­dian cities but also for cities around the world. 5. Demon­strate that it’s not gov­ern­ment as usual: There is a sense of ‘once bit­ten, twice shy’ around gov­ern­ment de­vel­op­ment pro­jects. This is a chance to do things bet­ter. With quick wins, trans­parency, and ad­her­ence to dead­lines, the chal­lenge would show that it’s a new day.

Learning: The com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the process in­creased in­cen­tives for city lead­ers to per­form well un­der pres­sure, and across de­part­ments, and fo­cus on the unique­ness of their cities, gen­er­at­ing a num­ber of lo­cally rel­e­vant pro­pos­als that re­sponded to lo­cal needs. it en­cour­aged project lead­ers to in­cor­po­rate new think­ing and de­velop cre­ative ideas with the help of cit­i­zens and ex­perts. 6. Bal­ance in­spi­ra­tion and prag­ma­tism: some­times cities de­velop grand plans, but fail to im­ple­ment them. at other times, they com­plete one-off pro­jects, which fail to fit into any larger vi­sion. In­cen­tives should en­cour­age am­bi­tious but

achiev­able plans, with short-term mile­stones to keep the mo­men­tum high.

Learning: The com­pet­i­tive na­ture of the smart cities Mis­sion led to more ef­fec­tive, re­al­is­tic and de­liv­er­able ideas. it was noted that in or­der to demon­strate the qual­ity of their pro­pos­als, cities had to put for­ward pro­pos­als that were not only in­no­va­tive but im­ple­mentable, thus im­prov­ing the over­all qual­ity of the sub­mis­sions. 7. Set mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials up for suc­cess: While states are re­spon­si­ble for much that hap­pens in cities,

mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials are crit­i­cal for suc­cess of such mis­sions.

Find­ing dis­crete ways to sup­port these smart cities cham­pi­ons through train­ing, recog­ni­tion, men­tor­ship, and peer net­work­ing will pro­duce con­sid­er­able ben­e­fits for the Smart Cities mis­sion – and po­ten­tially, a more last­ing ef­fect on mu­nic­i­pal ca­pac­ity. Learning: Re­spon­dents ex­pressed the view that a wide range of key city ac­tors at the ur­ban level – in­clud­ing mu­nic­i­pal com­mis­sion­ers, deputy com­mis­sion­ers, district col­lec­tors, nodal of­fi­cers, and some lo­cal elected of­fi­cials – were en­thu­si­as­tic and re­spon­sive to the process. 8. Don’t set­tle for good

– push for great: With so many chal­lenges in cities, first-pass cookie-cut­ter so­lu­tions are easy to come by, but of­ten fall short of our ex­pec­ta­tions from them. To be­come great, cities should be sup­ported by strength­en­ing ini­tial vi­sion­ing, and the ac­tors in­volved should think about lo­cal con­text, ex­per­i­ment ac­cord­ingly, and then im­ple­ment one’s ideas.

Learning: The fo­cus of smart cities on area-based de­vel­op­ment rep­re­sents a new way of think­ing about ur­ban­i­sa­tion in in­dia. it of­fers sig­nif­i­cant op­por­tu­ni­ties for holis­tic and in­te­grated plan­ning and also presents an op­por­tu­nity to test ideas that can then be utilised in other cities and through­out the coun­try.

Smart cities un­bun­dled: ideas and prac­tice of Smart cities in in­dia By Dr Sameer Sharma Blooms­bury,170 pages, ₹499

Ashish asthana

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