Posted by Admin on January 20, 2016

By V. Ravichandar
Chairman, Feedback Consulting

There is a lot of buzz around the ‘100 Smart Cities’ project in India. Governments signalling the importance of cities finding their own destiny is welcome, but, we need to be aware of the challenges ahead in implementing the smart cities programme. If the foundation is not right, we run the risk of attempting to place a 2015 ‘smart city processor’ on a 1980s ‘mother board’! It will not work.

So what are the infirmities that ail our cities? The key ones are:

Weak governance and administration system with huge state interference, titular mayors, and dysfunctional city corporation committees

Negligible citizen participation

Trust deficit between citizen and government

Lack of accountability and no-outcome orientation due to multiple agencies operating in silos

Low human capacity in government

Financial mismanagement compounded by opaque reporting practices; and

Lack of vision, disdain for long-term planning and poor implementation, leading to deteriorating quality of life in the city.

If we are to succeed in the Smart City programme, we will need a governance and administration reform so that we have a more citizen-centric city corporation. We will need to find ways to engage the community in identifying what needs to be done, and do projects in a collaborative manner. There is a need for external expertise to help find solutions for civic problems. The private sector and entrepreneurs will need to be incentivised to be part of the Smart City journey.

One hopes that local state leaderships exhibit the necessary political will and vision to truly empower our cities as engines of growth.

(The author is Chairman, Feedback Consulting, and a civic evangelist working pro bono with city governments since 2000. These views are personal.)