Last year three Indian metro cities – New Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata were listed among world’s 25 biggest urban areas. Topping it, Gartner stated that India will become one of the world’s biggest consumer economies during the next five years and by 2014 India will have more than 1 billion mobile subscribers and will see a significant rollout of new IT infrastructure in both the public and private sectors. To reinstate that prediction, enterprises across cities have started to witness an increasing inclination towards technologies which is a result of the confluence of social, mobile, cloud, Big Data, analytics and virtualization.
Although infrastructural barriers are creating a few road-blocks, small and traditionally technology shy industries in major cities are now embracing the new models. The brawny pillars of economic growth remain the SMEs and financial institutions and these have leveraged well the strengths of technology. For instance, Indian small cooperative banks have been increasingly opting for new technologies so as to ensure that they can address their customer concerns effectively through new services like ATM, mobile banking, and online banking to customers.
Technology can build new cities from the ground up with smart technologies. The Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor which is a public private partnership aimed at generating a new transportation and urbanization corridor between India’s government capital city, Delhi, and its business capital, Mumbai will be yet again reiterating the value of technology. Also, India’s decision to build 24 green cities in this Industrial Corridor would not have been without banking on the immense power of technology.
Also, interestingly, a geospatial solutions company has tied up with the Ministry of Tourism to give digital walkthroughs of 54 Indian cities. Although it will have its associated security and risk of violation, it will surely boost the Incredible India campaign.
When we talk technology, cloud is indispensible and a city can never progress if its dwellers are not endowed with smart basic necessities. For a highly populated country like India, it is only Cloud and its related derivatives in Big Data, Analytics and Hadoop that can make possible the herculean task for the government to provide efficient basic civic services to all through its web-net of municipal entities across the country. An automation drive for rolling out e-Governance schemes for the municipal offices may be a good effort for providing a quick, transparent and reliable citizen-centric service. Speaking of this, it needs to be mentioned that the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in the state of Gujarat went for automation drive of its civic services by setting up six civic centres in 2002 by using ICT applications for its over 50 lakh citizens. It was its own initiative and executed with its own resources. The citizen friendly civic centers began providing efficient, speedy and transparent process between the Municipal Corporation and the citizens and also checked corruption in its office to a large extent.
This is a one off instance and with each Indian city being different, only a strategy on scalable cloud can work best. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) of Government of India had made the decision to implement such automation of municipality scheme in 35 cities and had also prepared a model Detailed Project Report (DPR). While the process took too long, the cities that could have been approved are Vijaywada (Rs 4.02 crore), Nagpur (Rs 13.45 crore), Cochin (Rs 870 crore), Pimpri Chinchwad (Rs 9.24 crore), Navi Mumbai (Rs 15.11 crore) and Ulhas Nagar (Rs 5.62 crore). The reason for such long process was ideally because one common application for all the 5,000 ULBs was seeing variation in law across different states and the complicacies of 22 official languages. Such flaws could have only been addressed by cloud computing since it is evolutionary and is enabled by virtualisation, automation and self-service portals.
Taking a global example - the City Council of Biel, Switzerland had moved from a standalone model to Cloud model and had hosted 190 different applications. The result being automated, allowed IT staff to save hours of maintenance time each week while improving end-user productivity. Hence, to sum up, cost involved in developing cloud computing programmes, technical manpower requirement for maintenance of application software, and rollout time for deployment in a particular state is exceedingly cheaper against standalone deployment by urban local bodies.
Mobility services and penetration have already propelled excellent growth in Indian cities in a very short time. India’s announcement of its ambitious project to extend broadband connectivity to 250,000 villages can potentially create a social revolution and fuel further growth in the knowledge-based economy. Service providers have played their role of ‘the Wizard of Oz’ and rolled out innovative customer services too. Not limiting themselves to urban areas, they have rolled out customized plans to tap the rural market their way as well.
For example, a leading telecom player’s new value added service (VAS) specifically targeted at the rural population service called “Behtar Zindagi” (meaning “better life”) is aimed at helping the rural population to reap the benefits of mobile telephony for most basic information related to agriculture, commodity prices, and weather forecast, information on inland fisheries, livestock, health, rural finance and education. The penetration of mobile phones and the ensuing investments in this area by private players are certainly encouraging signs to a frolicking start for growth in Indian cities.
Government is well optimizing all credits of mobile application as reflected in the recent introduction of mobile application for doctors to notify the central government of new tuberculosis (TB) patients in the Indian city of Mumbai, Maharashtra which shelters 3 million people. That is indeed a good move as TB is one of the leading causes of mortality in India, killing two persons every three minute, nearly 1,000 every day. Again, The Traffic Police Department (BTP) of Bangalore City, Karnataka India’s third most populous city with 9.6 million people, had launched a mobile application for motorists to get real-time traffic updates, report road incidents, and check their fine records. Through one of the app feature ‘PublicEye’, motorists can take photos and report road violations directly to the Traffic Police among others.
Talking about the adoption of technology and its respective role in the development of India, it would be injustice to leave Aadhar out of the discussion. Aadhar was perhaps, the world’s most ambitious project involving the convergence of technologies from Big Data, Cloud, Analytics and Biometrics in a single integrated platform to standardize identity of the citizens. Although legalities involved here have put a question mark on the feasibility of the project, but it is important to note that the converging revolution of technologies has indeed started in India.
Big Data has created revolution globally because of the business opportunities it garners. It is a boon in the technological graph that can build smarter cities. Using Big Data solutions, a law enforcement agency in Thailand managed to cut investigation time from two years to 15 days. The project significantly improved the efficiency of investigating officers and prepared a platform for future optimisation. In India as well, highlighting the demand for analytics, Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh recently implemented an intelligent transport system provided by CMC. Data gathered from GPS in public buses is being used to track the frequency and delay of buses in each route, allowing city officials to plan for the deployment of more buses.
Thus, mobile, social, cloud and Big Data are the four mega technology trends that has began to unfold tremendous opportunities for cities to leverage. SMAC technologies are the Indian Government’s focus for its next round of e-government initiatives, with plans to set up new departments specifically to govern their use. One clever move for city leaders would be to look at our current applications and processes and see how these can be simplified and optimised.
The author is the co-founder and director, Edureka
(The article was published in PCQuest June 2014 issue)