There is no single definition of a Smart City that is universally accepted. Experts have conceptualised Smart Cities, but there are regional variations influenced by various local factors such as the level of development and willingness to change and reform according to resources and aspirations of the residents.
In India the Ministry of Urban Development has outlined the Smart City Mission, which reflects a radical change from many present parameters of urban development. The approach to the issue is from ‘bottom up.’
The ministry envisages participation and involvement of people in the formulation of city vision and Smart City plans. It does not impose ideas from above. It has given freedom and autonomy to urban local bodies and state governments in taking forward the Smart City Mission.
In this there are several core infrastructure elements that are presented before the public. They include, among others, the following elements:
Adequate and assured water and electricity supply, sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient urban mobility and public transport, affordable housing, especially for the poor, robust IT connectivity and digitalisation, good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation, sustainable environment, safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly, and health and education.
Some of the key features of Smart City conceived by the Urban Ministry include: Promotion of mixed land use in area-based developments — planning for ‘unplanned areas’ containing a range of compatible activities and land uses close to one another in order to make land use more efficient. The states will enable some flexibility in land use and building bye-laws to adapt to change;
Housing and inclusiveness — expand housing opportunities for all; Creating walkable localities — reduce congestion, air pollution and resource depletion, boost local economy, promote interactions and ensure security. The roads are created or refurbished not only for vehicles and public transport, but also for pedestrians and cyclists, and necessary administrative services are offered within walking/cycling distance;
Preserving and developing open spaces — parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces in order to enhance the quality of life of citizens, and generally promote eco-balance;
Promoting a variety of transport options — Transit Oriented Development (TOD), public transport and last mile para-transport connectivity;
Making governance citizen-friendly and cost effective — increasingly rely on online services to bring about accountability and transparency, especially using mobiles to reduce cost of services and providing services without having to go to municipal offices; form e-groups to listen to people and obtain feedback and use online monitoring of programmes and activities with the aid of cyber tour of worksites;
Giving an identity to the city — based on its main economic activity, such as local cuisine, health, education, culture, sports goods, furniture, hosiery, textile, dairy, etc;
Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development that is aimed to make them better. The aim is to make areas less vulnerable to disasters, using fewer resources, and providing cheaper services.
What is novel in the selection of these cities is that the winners from 11 states and the Union Territory of Delhi were selected after a competition among cities.