The Government of Sri Lanka has announced their plan to convert Kandy as the first smart city in the country. Newly sworn-in Minister of Town Planning and Water Resources Rauf Hakeem last week said Sri Lanka’s central hill capital will be developed as the first ‘Smart City’ in the island.

“Although, Colombo would be the best choice for a smart city, the decision to make Kandy the first smart city could be to review the results of the conversion in a smaller but rapidly growing city before moving to a much bigger city such as Colombo. This could be a step towards turning the entire nation into another developed country in the region,” Lamudi Sri Lanka, a leading real estate portal said in a statement.

The definition of the words “smart city” lies within. Bringing it down to the scale of mobile phones identifies the city as a modern Smartphone. Similar to a Smartphone that allows you to manage all your day to day activities, the smart city will be highly effective in terms of managing the urban services of a city. The urban area will be equipped with modern technology and the entirety of the city will be connected in order to manage the consumption of resources, governance, economy, health and the environment to name a few.

Managing Director of Lamudi Sri Lanka, Hugh van der Kolff said: “The move to make Kandy a smart city is definitely a strong choice. With the Internet penetration, mobile usage and electronic means of transactions increasing in Sri Lanka, converting growing cities such as Kandy, Galle and Colombo in the current era makes it beneficial for other related sectors as well; specifically the real estate sector since the demand and value of properties increase”.
The idea is to move the maintenance of the city to a more technologically powered system, rather than the traditional process, which makes use of a great deal of paper, cash and phone calls. In addition, attaining any sort of information regarding the city, from population to property ownership, would be much easier since the data is digitized and the connectivity is such that citizens of the town will be able to communicate without a long process as at present.

Smart city is a developed urban area that creates sustainable economic development and high quality of life by excelling in multiple key areas; economy, mobility, environment, people, living, and government. Excelling in these key areas can be done so through strong human capital, social capital, and/or ICT infrastructure.

Today, Sri Lanka is growing in terms of real estate and technology, both. With Google’s balloons intended to float in the skies of the wonder of Asia, Sri Lanka, more Sri Lankans will be gaining access to internet in the near future. The launch of the smart city at a time as such is rather perfect timing.

“What can we expect from the decision? Based on the world’s leading smart cities, Kandy could adopt several habits to become the best smart city in the region. New York City uses smart street lighting and Singapore uses smart traffic management which are both crucial for Kandy because driving in the city of Kandy could be hectic during peak hours and this system could ease the problem. Barcelona and London have scored high on improved environment and open data, respectively,” a statement from Lamudi Sri Lanka said.

India under a plan of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already begun forming smart cities and the country is on course to set up 100 smart cities. While there is no single definition for a smart city, the purpose of the smart cities is to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling infrastructure development using information technology.

The core infrastructure elements in a smart city would include adequate water supply, uninterrupted electricity supply, proper sanitation, including solid waste management, efficient public transport, affordable housing, good governance, health and education, sustainable environment, and safety and security of citizens.

Here’s how the Wikipedia describes a Smart City.
A smart city (also smarter city) uses digital technologies or information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance quality and performance of urban services, to reduce costs and resource consumption, and to engage more effectively and actively with its citizens. Sectors that have been developing smart city technology include government services, transport and traffic management, energy, healthcare, water and waste. Smart city applications are developed with the goal of improving the management of urban flows and allowing for real time responses to challenges.

A smart city may therefore be more prepared to respond to challenges than one
with a simple ‘transactional’ relationship with its citizens.
Major technological, economic and environmental changes have generated interest in smart cities, including climate change, economic restructuring, the move to online retail and entertainment, ageing populations, and pressures on public finances.

What are smart cities?

Across the world, the stride of migration from rural to urban areas is increasing. By 2050, about 70 percent of the population will be living in cities, and India is no exception. It will need about 500 new cities to accommodate the influx.

Interestingly, urbanization in India has for the longest time been viewed as a by-product of failed regional planning. Though it is inevitable, and will only change when the benefits of urbanization overtake the costs involved, it is an opportunity for achieving faster growth.

With increasing urbanization and the load on rural land, the government has now realized the need for cities that can cope with the challenges of urban living and also be magnets for investment. The announcement of ‘100 smart cities’ falls in line with this vision.

A ‘smart city’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability. It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents. There are many technological platforms involved, including but not limited to automated sensor networks and data centers. Though this may sound futuristic, it is now likely to become a reality as the ‘smart cities’ movement unfolds in India.

In a smart city, economic development and activity is sustainable and rationally incremental by virtue of being based on success-oriented market drivers such as supply and demand. They benefit everybody, including citizens, businesses, the government and the environment.

The origin
The concept of smart cities originated at the time when the entire world was facing one of the worst economic crises. In 2008, IBM began work on a ‘smarter cities’ concept as part of its Smarter Planet initiative. By the beginning of 2009, the concept had captivated the imagination of various nations across the globe.
Countries like South Korea, UAE and China began to invest heavily into their research and formation. Today, a number of excellent precedents exist that India can emulate, such as those in Vienna, Aarhus, Amsterdam, Cairo, Lyon, Málaga, Malta, the Songdo International Business District near Seoul, Verona etc.

In India
The cities with ongoing or proposed smart cities include Kochi in Kerala, Ahmedabad in Gujarat, Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Manesar in Delhi NCR, Khushkera in Rajasthan, Krishnapatnam in Andhra Pradesh, Ponneri in Tamil Nadu and Tumkur in Karnataka. Many of these cities will include special investment regions or special economic zones with modified regulations and tax structures to make it attractive for foreign investment. This is essential because much of the funding for these projects will have to come from private developers and from abroad.

The concept is not without challenges, especially in India. For instance, the success of such a city depends on residents, entrepreneurs and visitors becoming actively involved in energy saving and implementation of new technologies. There are many ways to make residential, commercial and public spaces sustainable by ways of technology, but a high percentage of the total energy use is still in the hands of end users and their behavior. Also, there is the time factor — such cities can potentially take anything between 20 and 30 years to build.

(The Hindu)

Smart cities could hold hope for India’s rural poor

When Narendra Modi declared last year before becoming prime minister that he would build “100 smart cities,” Indians understood a part of what he said — “100.” But the quest to comprehend the rest of his vision has not been fruitful, even though his government set up a website called, organized an exhibition called “Smart Cities India 2015” and held news conferences during which a minister used the word “retrofitting” several times. Finally, in June, through a “mission statement,” Mr. Modi agreed that he did not know himself what a “smart city” was.

“There is no universally accepted definition of a smart city,” the statement explained, even though Indians had not been waiting to learn the universal definition of a “smart city,” but what Mr. Modi had meant by it.

As he is a man who believes that transformation begins with a catchy phrase, he does not plan to abandon the terminology. What an Indian “smart city” now means, primarily, is a city with good roads, power, water and livable homes. For that to happen, a city would need “smart people,” according to the statement. The moment this writer knows what that means he will let you know.

A few days ago, the Modi government finalized a list of 98 cities, some or many of which would become beneficiaries of an annual federal grant of one billion rupees, or about $15 million, each for the next five years to help them become smart. The grant would be matched by the local government that governs the city. Even so, these are paltry funds. Mr. Modi hopes that after the government intervention, private companies will invest in the revolution.

If Mr. Modi is indeed serious about an overhaul of Indian cities, he would be undertaking one of the greatest humanitarian tasks in the world. As things stand, all Indian cities are broken even by the standards of the developing world. They are hellholes for the poor and insufferable for the rich.

More than 30 percent of India lives in urban areas, not counting the floating population, and the figure is expected to rise steeply in the near future. The migration from rural areas holds much hope for India. The shrinking of the traditional Indian village might be a loss to heritage, but it is a heritage from which many of India’s ills emerge. Some city dwellers may have romantic notions about the village, but it is a treacherous place for the poor.

The nature of a city makes it harder, if not impossible, for the powerful to get away with criminal conduct against those deemed to be of lower castes. Their children have reasonable opportunities in the city. Women have greater freedom and safety. These are the reasons, apart from the money, the rustic poor become urban poor and choose to live in inhuman conditions.

Politicians have not been able to improve the lives of the urban poor, because they did not become politicians by being humanitarians with bright ideas. In any case, most of the migrant poor do not vote in the cities. They go back to their villages to vote after receiving their little bribes. Also, urban politicians have been lousy builders of good infrastructure, because, apart from lacking the will and the wisdom, they fear that voters will view swanky projects as toys of the rich.

There is some basis for this fear. For instance, four years ago, on the first day of a street demonstration in Delhi that would soon become a middle-class movement against corruption, there were only the poor shouting slogans, and what they were saying was that the government was just building “wide highways” and “airports” for the rich. The politicians who backed the Delhi Metro project, too, faced similar criticism at the start — that they were building trains with air-conditioning and automatic doors for the rich.

Mr. Modi, too, has faced criticism that his “smart cities” would amount to shimmering business districts for billionaires. Though he has toned down the shimmering bit, he has been struggling to convey the difficult message to Indians that the rising tides of modern glittering cities would lift all smart boats.

(New York Times)