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The Hindu: Planning for smart cities? Here’s the India Readiness Guide

Setting the platform for collaboration between local government and technology providers, the Smart Cities Council India on Wednesday launched the Indian Readiness Guide to help urban planners understand the framework of a smart city and take steps to improve infrastructure.

The India Readiness Guide was launched at the third smart cities summit on Wednesday and saw participation from over 70 expert speakers, officials from over 50 cities, and 300 delegates including technology experts, academics and urban planners.

Describing it as a significant first step by India to put its mark on the global smart cities stage, Pratap Padode, founder of the Smart Cities Council India, said the country could now become an ‘incubation lab’ for urban solutions.

“The Smart Cities Council has launched this to help cities plan their blueprint better. It is also offering workshops for municipalities seeking training and capacity building,” he added.

As much as it was an exercise in urban planning the summit was also a pitch for business. Among the keynote speakers at the event was U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Bruce Andrews, who was leading a delegation of 18 American companies looking to launch or expand trade in India in areas ranging from intelligent transportation, water management and power.

Mr. Andrews stressed that there was substantial opportunities for these companies in India’s smart city projects and said the US was looking to be valuable partner in transferring the lessons it has learned in creating environmentally sustainable technology. He noted that there were billion of dollars waiting to be invested to deploy climate-friendly solutions but that “attracting this money is a competition”.

It was up to the government, he said, to make the Indian market the most attractive investment destination it can be. The US is currently engaged in supporting development Vizag, Allahabad and Ajmer as smart cities but Mr Andrews indicated that it was looking to be involved with all the other projects as well.

As part of the US delegation that met with Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday, Philip Bane, executive director of the Smart Cities Council in Washington, said the Ministry wanted to let Indian cities grow without regulation. What it meant though, he added, was that while the Central government would allow cities freedom in developing plans for improvement it would not necessarily fund them.

“The challenge is to create Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that will be adaptable and profitable and that is why we have formed the Smart Cities Council to come up with a blue print for that,” Mr. Bane said.

The Indian Readiness Guide, Mr. Bane added, featured 80 case studies, of which 40 are success stories from India in terms of improving urban infrastructure. The 400 page report cites studies from from Pune, Delhi, Kolkata, Surat, Jabalpur, Hyderabad, Indore, etc.

The initial chapters focus on introductory, universal aspects, identifying various key responsibilities – the day-to-day services that cities need to provide. A dedicated chapter deals with citizen partnership and engagement and there are then individual chapters about each responsibility, such as water, transportation, public safety, etc. which are illustrated by supporting case studies.

Chapters on the Smart Cities Framework then elaborate on the relationship between a city’s responsibilities and its enablers – technology solutions that can make those tasks easier and citizen engagement that can make those implementations more inclusive.