As the global population continues to grow at a steady pace, more and more people are moving to cities every single day. Experts predict the world’s urban population will double by 2050 – which means we’re adding the equivalent of seven New Delhi Cities to the planet every single year. Urban areas also contribute a higher share of GDP. In India, the urban poputation is currently 31% of the total population and it contributes over 60% of India’s GDP. It is projected that urban India will contribute nearly 75% of the national GDP in the next 15 years. Cities are accordingly referred to as the engines of economic growth. There is accordingly a crying need for the cities to get smarter to handle this large-scale urbanization and finding new ways to manage complexity, increase efficiency, reduce expenses, and improve quality of life.
The key features of a Smart City is in the intersect between competitiveness, Capital and Sustainability. The smart cities should be able to provide good infrastructure such as water, sanitation, reliable utility services, health care; attract investments; transparent processes that make it easy to run a commercial activities; simple and on line processes for obtaining approvals, and various citizen centric services to make citizens feel safe and happy.
Smartness in a city means different things to different people. It could be smart design, smart utilities, smart housing, smart mobility, smart technology etc. Thus it is rather difficult to give a definition of a smart city. However, people migrate to cities
primarily in search of employment and economic activities beside better quality of life.
Therefore, a Smart City for its sustainability needs to offer economic activities and employment opportunities to a wide section of its residents, regardless of their level of education, skills or income levels. In doing so, a Smart City needs to identify its comparative or unique advantage and core competence in specific areas of economic activities and promote such
activities aggressively, by developing the required institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructures for it and attracting investors and professionals to take up such activities. It also needs to support the required skill development for such activities in a big way. This would help a Smart City in developing the required environment for creation of economic activities and employment opportunities.
Apart from employment, it is also important for a Smart City to offer decent living options to every resident. This would mean that it will have to provide a very high quality of life (comparable with any developed European City) i.e. good quality but affordable
housing, cost efficient physical, social and institutional infrastructure such as adequate and quality water supply, sanitation, 24 x 7 electric supply, clean air, quality education, cost efficient health care, dependable security, entertainment, sports, robust and high speed interconnectivity, fast & efficient urban mobility etc.
In this context, Smart Cities are those that are able to attract investments and experts & professionals. Good quality infrastructure, simple and transparent online business and public services processes that make it easy to practice one’s profession or to establish an enterprise and run it efficiently without any bureaucratic hassles are essential features of a citizen centric and investor-friendly smart city. Adequate availability of the required skills in the labour force is a necessary requirement for sustainability of a Smart City. Entrepreneurs, themselves, look for a decent living and so they also look for smart housing, high level of healthcare, entertainment and quality education. Safety and security is a basic need for them as to any other resident. A city that is considered unsafe is not attractive. Besides an entrepreneur or a professional needs to be there as someone who helps a city to prosper and adds value to it rather than someone who only benefits from it.
Different organizations have used different definitions for Smart Cities, as given at Annex -1. While there are many definitions, the key features of a Smart City, as it emerges from the variety of definitions and from the discussion above, seem to be as shown in Smart Cities are those cities which have smart (intelligent) physical, social, institutional and economic infrastructure while ensuring centrality of citizens in a sustainable environment. It is expected that such a Smart City will generate options for all residents to pursue their livelihoods and interests meaningfully and with joy.