We keep our homes well-ordered, hygienic and try to keep it smart, don’t we? Who otherwise can make our home look better? The same idea spread on to towns. Isn’t your city your home? Daily you spend about 16 hours of your day out of your household and nearby 8 hours of your day in home. So you actually live more in the City and less in your home. Therefore, your city is your home.
Every city needs continuous improvements when it comes to infrastructure. As the population increases, the challenges of the city grow too. And therefore continuous improvement should be an ongoing process for every city. Currently, IT industries have started developing and also applying the technical solution to address the city challenges and gave the title “Smart City” to cities. Tech-savvy companies have started aiming at developing solutions to make the life of citizens better. This is really a noble job. However, the way the Smart City projects are being executed currently is really not going to make cities smarter.
The current model of Smart City Projects is surely going to receive investment from the Central, State governments and Local City Corporation. If all Cities receive funds, then there are chances that the projects would execute. But if they don’t have the provision of funds, they will generate money by raising taxes. Or they might have to make some PPP model too. The current model of making a Smart City is completely based on capital expenditure, where every respective body will be making certain investments over a period of time. It sounds good till this point. What about sustainability? Who will invest after that? Who will raise fund for expansion of these projects? Will these projects be scrapped in future due to non-provision of funds?
Historically, more than 50% funds of Government projects are not utilized in the way they should have been used. And where is the role of Citizens in Smart City projects? Will any project be successful without the inclusion of citizens? the answer is No.
No city will be smarter if it is not made smarter by the citizens of that city and a major flaw in current Smart City Projects is the non-involvement of Citizens. The current model of making Smart Cities is a project-based approach which is nothing but capital expenditure projects. But then what are the solutions to these problems?
The solution is simple. Let’s make our city Smarter ourselves. The government should vitalize job enablement and should encourage people to make their city Smarter. It ’s a leadership role which Government has to play instead of being the ‘Customer’ for Smart City Projects. How? The government should call local entrepreneurs and ask them to make the business model for Smart Cities. There should be a bidding process for a better self-sustainable business model from various entrepreneurs. The government should choose any one entrepreneur based on projected performance outcome which should include the return on investment in next five to seven years. Once an entrepreneur is chosen for one Smart City element, Government should help them in following ways:
• Helping the entrepreneurs to get advanced technology for Smart City elements if required. Currently, in most Smart Cities, Capex investment is being done on Smart City platforms. Rather the government can do empanelment of service providers who provide Smart City platform as service on the cloud. This will help the government to reduce their overall upfront investment. Plus, since this will be based on Pay-per-consume model, it will be helpful to pay only for required Smart City modules instead of paying for the entire Smart City platform when it is not required.
• Helping to get legislation changes done if required for a particular Smart City element.
• Funding entrepreneurs in the next five to seven years with low-interest rates and making provision to fund them and make sure to get the return of minimum 10% per annum from that business model.
• Helping entrepreneurs to get power and land if required.
• Education programs across the city for Smart City element so that people can align their culture with Smart City elements and start making use of it in the right direction. This education program should be made with the help of local institutions and bodies.
• Periodically monitoring Smart City element business, taking feedback and helping them improve.
• Setting up education course (short//long term) for Smart City entrepreneurship, operations & maintenance or for any other aspect.
• Incubation center across the city for research of Smart City elements and advancement of those elements.
The above methodology will help in following way:
• It will create entrepreneurs whose business as well as moral responsibility will be to take care of Smart City elements. For example, if we consider Smart Parking as one of the Smart City element, then the entrepreneurs will be responsible for making parking operation smooth across cities. By this, the government is directly appointing one entrepreneur for taking care of Smart parking as well as government is creating jobs across the city for its citizens through Smart Parking initiative.
• Education model will create new opportunities for employment of upcoming generation in Smart parking solution.
• Incubation center will create an echo system for research and innovation for Smart Parking element across the city.
• Education programs will involve people in the process of making city smarter.
• After five to seven years of business model, the government would get their invested funds in return. Same increased funds will be available for the government to invest into another Smart City element, which will create another ecosystem of another Smart City element.
Once this entire process is repeated for each Smart City element, there will be a self-sustainable business model for local entrepreneurs, jobs, and their moral responsibility will be to make cities smarter. In this process, the government is not directly making cities smarter by allocating projects but creating an echo system and making local people get involved into the process of making City Smarter by education, business, and moral accountability.