ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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How Smart Are Indian Smart Cities?

A Case Study of Shimla

This paper deals with the components of a “smart city” and the governmental actions required for their sustainability. It aims at analysing the perception of the people towards the smart city project and gauges their understanding of its components based on a purposive sampling method. It has been found that on all fronts of the smart city components, the general public were not satisfied with the facilities available and a majority of public representatives were not well versed with the concept of the smart city, therefore, widening the gap between the assurance of the provision of facilities and its actual implementation.

[Figure 1 accompanying this paper is available on the EPW website.]

The authors would like to acknowledge the members of legislative assembly of three constituencies of the Shimla smart city, councillors of different wards, government offi cials, and the general public during the fi eldwork for their time, cooperation, support, and for sharing their thoughts and concerns about the smart city project.

India is urbanising fast but there are stark inequalities in many urban areas with a large proportion of the population lacking access to quality basic services (Mitra and ­Nagar 2018; Kundu and Banerjee 2018; HPEC 2011). There is a need to improve urban service delivery for reaping the full pot­ential of cities as key drivers of economic growth. In the context of urban development, the concept of “smart city” has become quite popular (Oliveira et al 2011). According to Szczech (2014), the concept of the smart city, in its current understanding, combines and gives ground for synergies between competitiveness and sustainable development in urban areas. This project originated way back in 1994 but the first financial assistance came in 2000. “Smart city” is not merely a simple term but is a subject that contains many uncertainties (Cavada et al 2014). The paradigm of smart cities should covet smart homes as a way of enhancing the quality of life. The term smart city was coined towards the end of the 20th century which signified how urban development was shifting towards technology, innovation, and globalisation (Gibson et al 1992). This concept is fabricated with information and communication technology (ICT) as a development strategy embedding into digital infrastructure (Dutton et al 1987). It is prevalent in all fields inclusive of urban public safety, manufacturing, environment monitoring, traffic movement control, and other fields (Zhang and Yuan 2015), thereby enhancing our understanding for future urban development. It is a technical solution to poli­tical and environment issues (Gabrys 2014), a pot­ential “technological fire” (Viitanen and Kingston 2015).

Citizen enga­gement has been considered as the top-most priority through education, design-based thinking, and sharing of new ideas. It was in the Eighth Five Year Plan that interrelationships bet­ween urban policy and development were understood (Ganeshwar 1998) with the launch of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM), that was a milestone in India’s urban development policy. On similar grounds of the JNNURM, the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) was introduced in India in 2015 in which 100 smart cities all over the country were selected known as the smart city mission plan as per the Ministry of Urban Development. Acc­ording to Burte (2014), the idea of smart cities is a card waiting to be played right. The entire project thus should be optimised for sustainability by improving the ICT infrastructure and governance for enhancing cities’ administrative autonomy.

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Updated On : 6th Feb, 2023
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