Cloud, Mobility, Social collaboration and other technological advances are conveying a new power to cities, the one they need most and in ample measure. Educated cities, healthy cities, modern cities, proactive-postured cities, resilient cities, agile cities – no matter how you tag them – smart cities are here and about. And so is the massive and ever-penetrating presence of cloud, mobile and social technologies or sharing information collectively or a slew of advanced technologies, platforms and practices. If private sector was the one that embraced digitization first, well the government sector is catching up with breathtaking speed now.
Disruption and innovation is what Cloud, Big Data and Mobility have trickled in with and they are fast affecting ways where we enable good governance and impact citizen lives.
It’s a world where traffic is managed automatically, and artificial-machine intelligence is not a misnomer; a world where there is no need for meter readers and yet outages can be captured precisely, with power connected remotely, and households tracking energy consumption on their own. It’s an era where people don’t and won’t stand in eternal queues to get a stamp or a paper sheet from a bureaucrat.
These are times when everything, no matter how small or big, good or bad, is immediately relayed, broadcasted and sliced by citizens with their phones, their growing impatience for mediocrity, wastage and their now-powered-fingertips.
This is an age where people demand services real-time, with transparency and without errors. And it is technology that is bringing about this change, a move to a simpler world where not only things happen automatically but more importantly in a manner that is transparent and easily tracked.
In this day and age, tt is possible and desirable to shape eco-friendly cities which use innovative Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for bringing efficiency, speed and accuracy in the realm of public services and infrastructure. But they would need, among other levers, technological vision and ideas.
Consider this. Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, and will reach 25 billion by 2020. But while manufacturing, utilities and transportation will be the top three verticals using IoT (Internet of Things) in 2015; by 2020, the ranking will change with utilities in the No. 1 spot, manufacturing at second and government at the third rank with smart street and area lighting investments for example. This would mean a total of some 1.7 billion IoT units installed.
Digital sensing, computing and communications capabilities are giving organizations a new functionality that can tap and augment ‘digital voice’ in both new and previously passive objects that create and deliver an information stream reflecting their status and that of their surrounding environment.
This also means a new avenue for creating new services and usage scenarios and using built-in intelligence and connectivity for many areas. Similarly, new and powerful solutions for intelligence and analysis, surveillance, and emergency management that can vastly improve citizen and government relationships are emerging. This propels broader digital inclusion and impact areas like more accessible, higher quality education, better access to healthcare services, help for individuals as well as communities to thrive and prosper, enablement of modern cities in operating more efficiently, and a novel approach to addressing tough challenges like energy and water efficiency and cleaner forms of transportation.
Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft had remarked recently that “With more than 250 million Indians using Internet-connected devices today, there is incredible demand and opportunity for India and cloud services through local datacenters, making Digital India a reality.”
There are now new possibilities in e-governance, financial inclusion, healthcare and education.
Cloud with its elasticity, openness, scalability, affordability helps governments reach giant goals without stretching beyond pragmatic boundaries. Mobility and collaboration on the other hand, helps them walk at the same pace as their citizens and stakeholders are jogging at. A good government can use today’s technology as answers for doing the fundamentals really well, for empowering users in making better and informed decisions, and for connecting to citizens directly for feedback. This new cornucopia can also assist massively in delivering contemporarily-relevant services to the citizen and in keeping people safe and secure.
Surat, for instance is endeavoring to use a combination of cloud technology, mobile applications, data analytics and social networks to provide real-time data of all civic services, wherein systems can tackle natural disasters more effectively with the use of information technology and present systems are enhanced for and integrated with digital world.
It would use, among other things, GIS and information systems like for capturing accurate data and ways to make e-governance more user-friendly, for better and simpler town planning and more areas of safety and services.
Another big area of concern is disaster management, technology can play a very critical role in this aspect. Take the recent instances of Cyclone Phailin or even Cyclone Nilofar, with continuous satellite tracking and frequent updates, the damages were minimized to a great extent. And disasters are not always the natural types, it can also be in the form of epidemic or outbreak of diseases. For example, data intelligence and analytics can play a big role in the way countries or for that matter cities manage the outbreak of Ebola. By effectively isolating the cases and quick quarantines, the impact of the disease can be limited to a great extent. This is where technology and its proactive usage scores over everything else.
For any city to actually turn into a smart one that throbs with intelligence and agility it is vital that it uses technology that is simplified, flexible, scalable and easy to plug in. Plus it should be citizen-friendly, in fact, citizen-centric and to a reasonable extent, affordable, familiar and easily usable.
Doing new and more with less is the big shift. This shift, gathers acceleration and a long-term stability, when it is fuelled with technology. Smart cities, in short, are technologically-powered cities.