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Impact of Smart Cities on India | Opinion

Introduction

Smart City is a concept that brings people’s use of technology and city development together. The Smart City Mission organised by the Government of India has a total of 99 winning proposals and has a budget of over 201979 Crores which will affect over 99,486,840 of the Indian population.  This feat will vastly improve the infrastructure by providing more public spaces and amenities to the Indian population. However, communication and technology will be the central aspect of Smart Cities rather than ‘human scale’. People in the lower economic scale will benefit the most as mobile phones will become cheaper and access to internet and information about the world becomes available to the general public. This is similar to smart phone growth where India has immensely developed from the technology, Smart Cities might also have a positive impact on the society. A negative aspect is that technology will be the center of the development rather than people’s choices and abilities.

The Positive Impacts

As globalisation becomes more prominent, it is getting easier for people to communicate with people of other nations and benefit from the global impact of technology. A Smart City will incorporate technology throughout the city through smart technology such as wifi and modems giving people more access to information and technological use in the city. There are some positive effects for the infrastructure of the country, as there will be more redevelopment plans around India, similar to developed countries abroad. For instance, the Khan River Redevelopment Plan could have positive impacts as many people will use the space for recreation and enjoyment, while making use of the riverfront. Many cities around the world have good riverfronts or waterfronts as public spaces, providing many amenities and values to the general public such as the Navy Pier in Chicago, USA and Docklands in Melbourne, Australia. Smart cities will help Indian cities compete and co-operate with other cities worldwide, providing similar facilities to the people of India. Below is a figure that provides a brief description from the Government of India on Khan Riverfront Development in Indore.

Khan Riverfront Development

 The negative impacts

As indicated, there can be positive effects of the Smart City plan in India. However, the expansive growth of IT with many engineers being consulted can be a negative consequence for planners and architects. The government should consider the viewpoints of planners, geographers and architects, along with IT professionals to have a holistic approach towards Smart Cities. The ways in which people are impacted in Smart Cities and how the infrastructure can benefit humans is a core-component of urban planning. Planners must be consulted for Smart City growth, however, the government has vastly focussed on the Information Technology aspect of the Smart City without considering the city as a structure and bottom-up strategies towards city planning. A purely technical city might have many negative implications such as lack of human contact and lack of face-to-face interactions which are a necessity according to the ‘happy city’ index. The happy city index indicates that one of the main reasons for happiness in cities is the need to communicate and co-exist as a community in a city.

Although some of the Smart City infrastructure planning in India might lead to community engagement  in a city, enforcing technology rather than placemaking and city planning approaches might have an overall negative effect to the Smart City. Smart Cities should also focus on economic growth and providing more job opportunities to people. However, with the advent of AI technology, which is considered to be incorporated in Smart Cities, many jobs will be performed by Artificial Intelligence replacing people’s expertise in them. This, again, can have a negative impact on the society in the future. Smart cities should be built by having humans in mind, rather than just technological improvement. This is why planners should also contribute to Smart City growth, rather than engineers and technical experts.

Conclusion

As indicated, there are many positive and negative effects of Smart City growth in India. The focus on improving the infrastructure and providing technology for people will have tremendous benefits on the Indian population. However, who the beneficiaries are and to what extent Smart City growth helps people on a ‘human scale’ is debatable. There needs to be a greater focus on building cities for people’s benefits and providing infrastructure that is advantageous to people, rather than infrastructure that curtails people’s abilities. Technology can do both, and it is the responsibility of the government to discuss these issues with experts in city development for the benefit of the people of India.