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Smart City 2011: National Convention on ICT in Urban Governance
The National Convention on Urban Governance in March 2011 discussed the prospects and challenges of urban governance, and examines the role of ICTs in citizen centric city planning.

Egov magazine and Elets Technomedia Ltd. organised the Smart City 2011-National Convention on Urban Governance in Delhi on March 4, 2011. It was co-organised by the Ministry of Urban Development, Government of India, with the objective of discussing the prospects and challenges of sustainable cities and the role of ICTs to make cities better planned and more citizen centric. 

The inaugural session discussed the driving forces behind smart cities in terms of the challenges that Indian cities are facing and the need for solutions and strategies, including ICT enablers as well. 

In the inaugural address Mr Saugata Roy, Honourable Union Minister of State, Ministry of Urban Development, stressed the importance of ICTs in enhancing the competence of smart cities. He spoke of e-governance as an integral part of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewable Mission (JNNURM). The Minister called for a comprehensive urban information system to meet development needs of growing urban areas, and recommended the deployment of technology to facilitate people induced planning for smart cities.

Talking about the implications of ICTs such as GIS mapping he said,"GIS mapping for smart cities does provide an added dimension to data analysis and visualisation of complex patterns and real world policy planning and challenges." 

Aruna Sundararajan, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation discussed the focus areas that would be addressed in the the second phase of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM). She described the Rajiv Awas Yojana for slum dwellers under JNNURM, which is on the lines of Indira Awas Yojana for rural poo.

Sundararajan affirmed the importance of ICT tools such as GIS mapping for identifying slums in urban areas, deployment of best software for capacity building of Municipalities and comprehensive database identifying every citizen, for fast tracking development. 

The former director of Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority Mr Tapas Ghatak pointed out the areas in urban planning that require urgent attention. He favoured documentation and discussion of not only the best governance practices, but also that of the ones that did not work, in order to better highlight and rectify the shortcomings of city development plans.

Smart City 2011 conference hosted a discussion on Building Sustainable Cities where dignitaries of major urban development organisations, of both public and private sectors, participated. The session looked at different aspects of city life and the urban milieu, complexities of city development and the vulnerabilities of the citizens.

Prof. Brijesh Kumar, former chairman and CEO of Greater Noida Authority, elaborated on the physical, social, financial and ecological aspects of sustainability for cities. Presenting the intricacies of city development model for NOIDA, Mr Kumar strongly emphasised on the importance of quality in facilities built up, integration of the informal sector in the city planning and the need for planning for abundance. 

Prof Dinesh Mohan of IIT Delhi however pressed the need for building basic infrastructure before focusing on the issue of ICT for urban development. 

Jay B Kshirsagar, Chief Planner, Town and Country Planning Organisation, Ministry of Urban Development spoke of the importance of regional planning for city development. For the success of JNNURM the government requires more ICT enabled schemes like National Urban Information System (NUIS) that developed GIS database for cities/towns in the country, Kshirsagar said.

Vivek Bharadwaj, CEO of Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority and Naval Khosla of IBM discussed few models of ICT enabled smart city prospects and viabilities. 

Dr Siddharth Agarwal, Director, Urban Health Resource Centre, Delhi focused the human components of a city. Throwing light on the issues of slums in urban areas he called for more inclusive planning that will encompass the housing, health, education, food and sanitation needs of the lesser privileged parts of cities also.

Agarwal also stressed the need for spatial mapping of cities and strongly recommended listing all the currently unlisted slums for facilitating policy benifits to the slum dwellers. The discussion was concluded by strong arguments forwarded by Rashmi Singh, the director of Mission Convergence, Delhi. She advocated a bottom up approach for urban planning and implementation though effective use of ICTs that ensures uniform enforceability and transparency in public service delivery thereby transforming people into productive citizens.

The Smart City 2011 conference included discussions on enhancing stake holder competency and internal automation of municipalities and municipal e-governance in the later part of the day.

The Smart City conference was successful in giving a meaningful direction to all the stakeholders of urban development sectors in materialising the visions and mitigating the challenges of urbanisation. Different ICT tools, as discusses by the eminent panels,offered . As the Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation, Aruna Sundararajan pointed out; this conference on ICT in urban governance was timely as the next phase of JNNURM will be launched soon.

 

Source: OneWorld Foundation India