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Chapter # 19.Smart Cities for Urban Transformation


Leverage the ‘Smart Cities’ concept in select urban clusters to:

  • Drive job creation and economic growth.
  • Significantly improve efficiencies in service delivery.
  • Leverage technology for inclusive, sustainable and participatory development by 2022-23.

Current Situation

Smart Cities is an approach to urban development characterized by area-based development, efficient delivery of basic infrastructure and services in an equitable manner and citizens’ participation.

The Government of India has so far selected 99 cities with an outlay of INR 2.04 lakh crore. These cities have started implementing projects such as smart command and control centres, smart area-based development, smart roads, solar rooftops, intelligent transport systems and smart parks.

These projects have the unique feature of integration between different infrastructural elements of the projects. As of 14 May 2018, projects worth INR 4,800 crores have been completed and works worth more than INR 20,000 crores are underway, as per the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs’ Smart City MIS portal.


The key operational challenge areas in the Smart City Mission include the non-availability of the following:

  • An institutional mechanism for inter-agency coordination, including special purpose vehicles (SPVs), for effective delivery.
  • A robust spatial plan as an overall framework within which smart city planning and implementation can happen.
  • Smart mechanisms to enhance the voices of the urban poor, slum dwellers, migrants and other underprivileged citizens.
  • A digital master plan or a digital strategy and roadmap.
  • Data-driven decision making for service delivery and resource sustainability.
  • Availability of skilled human resources to handle various functional domains.
  • Financing smart cities and financial sustainability of ULBs.

Way Forward

The following strategies are proposed to leverage the Smart Cities Mission across the four paradigms of economy, equity, environment and engagement in India by 2022-23:


  • Scaling area-based development: There is a need to measure the impact of current area-based development projects on the ease of living, economic growth, investments, job creation and citizens’ participation. The central government can consider transferring the lessons learnt from such area-based development projects to other cities. States should also be encouraged to launch their own state-level missions for other cities.
  • Mobility: An integrated institutional architecture for planning and coordinating the regulation of mobility such as a Unified Metropolitan Transport Authority is needed.
  • Spatial plans should provide for integrating land-use and transport planning to support more mixed-use development for enhancing economic activity, reducing commuting time and improving environmental quality.
  • There is a need for focused attention to public transport, including existing intermediate and para-transit services, especially in smaller cities. A pooled green transport fund to support such investments is recommended. A high-level inter-ministerial electric vehicle (EV) mission is necessary for proper coordination on the EV agenda.
  • Achieving desired service delivery levels: Funds for the provisioning of basic services and infrastructure are accessed from complementary missions, such as the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM), and Housing for All (HFA).
  • There is a need for a framework that mandates measurable outputs and outcomes for all capital investments in infrastructure and services in cities.
  • These outputs and outcomes should be predefined and measured at quarterly intervals. The present liveability assessment underway will provide the baseline for measurement on 73 indicators.
  • Digital transformation roadmap: Conventionally, cities have been using information technology and communication (ICT) in three ways: (1) use a single application to address burning problems, say, waste collection, and then add more applications as per the needs and priorities of the city; (2) build infrastructure and add services, and (3) experiment with a number of applications without having a long-term or definitive vision in place.
  • The conventional ways ignore the value hidden in human interactions – among citizens, with the city’s infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges, parks) and the environment. These interactions contain data and information and digital technology has the potential to recognize and capture the hidden value in their interactions.
  • To harness internet connectivity and its various applications in governance and service delivery, cities need to put in place a digital transformation roadmap across both hard infrastructure and software applications. A digital transformation roadmap would recognize and capture these interactions and the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts once the information that flows in the “systems of systems” is captured.
  • Additionally, the digital transformation roadmap would also build on the considerable work done in cities on geographic information systems (GIS) and apply these for geo-locating, mapping and publishing public assets in the city such as parks, playgrounds, public toilets, bus stops, streetlights, manholes, water and sewerage lines, storm water drains, power lines, etc., and linking these to grievance redressal, participatory budgeting, transparent works management, and contractor payments.
  • Municipal acts need to provide for a digital transformation roadmap for ULBs as a mandatory policy document, like spatial plans. This will also help build data observatories for multiple uses, including citizen engagement.


  • Inclusive development: Cities must ensure that the urban poor and slum dwellers including recent migrants can avail of city services and subsidies and are financially included through the Jan Dhan Yojana. A dedicated benchmark could be considered to measure if benefits reach the targeted poor.
  • Cities should dedicate a single-window facility for the urban poor to access basic services such as water supply, drainage and sewerage, and affordable housing in the form of dormitory and rental housing.
  • Urban poor communities and slums, benefitted by area-based development (ABD) or pan city proposal (PCP) solutions, should be mapped in conjunction with improvements in parameters such as access to public assets and reducing service deficit including in the areas of education and health.


  • Resilient cities: It is strongly recommended that India should mainstream the resilient cities approach and integrate it with service levels as indicated in the chapter on Approach to Sustainability in our National Building Code.
  • The resilient cities approach should also be in line with the 11th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), which emphasizes the sustainable development of cities and communities.
  • Environment sustainability should be recognized as a distinct goal and be measured as part of service levels. The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) can issue model guidelines in this regard.


  • Data observatories in partnership with civil society: More than 20 smart command and control centres are under implementation and an equal number are under tendering. About six of these centres have been completed in Vishakhapatnam, Kakinada, Surat, Nagpur, Vadodara and Ahmedabad, with nearly all of them using open-source codes.
  • There is need to use the information available in these centres to develop urban data observatories with a flexible architecture and continue open source accessibility. The purpose of such observatories is to serve as a decision support mechanism for policy makers and to engage citizens. The MoHUA guidelines should institutionalize the need for regulation around data observatories and make them open source in nature (by limiting private ownership of such data), while at the same time protecting the privacy of citizens.
  • The data observatory incubated by the National Institute of Urban Affairs offers one such model. Institutionally, there is need to leverage information to achieve better inter-agency coordination within ULBs and with SPVs.

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