Our beloved Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi, initiated a bold mission of converting 100 existing cities into Smart Cities. But what is a Smart City? Even the government admits that there is no one definition of a Smart City. I feel many Smart City experts also have a very superficial or sometimes incorrect understanding of what "smartness" should a Smart City have.
Will a Smart City stay smart even after 100+ years?
Can these Smart Cities bring sense to the traffic on Indian roads? Can they give pedestrians and emergency vehicles the right of way and the respect they truly deserve? Can they stop the non-stop honking on Indian roads? Can lane discipline and rules be followed in these smart cities?
Will Smart Cities of future India have the infra to support self-driving cars?
Will Smart Cities change the way we shop? Will drones deliver your groceries to your balcony?
Will we still need a Google Map to navigate our way around the cities?
There is a reason why I ask these questions.
The last couple of decades of technological advancements seen in America is astounding and at times scary. Americans will become a Multi-planetary species thanks to Elon Musk's plans to colonize Mars (Space X) and make, Jeff Bezos will build space factories and infrastructure (Blue Origin), Americans will travel in Hyperloop between cities, drive in autonomous self-driving cars (Tesla, Uber , Google etc) and get their shopping cart delivered to their homes within 30 mins by Amazon Prime Air.
On the other hand India, the largest democracy and one of the fastest growing economies of the world is still struggling to give a reasonably comfortable life to its millions of urban citizens in its failed cities. The result - continuous Brain drain and we loose millions of smart Indians who have the potential to become the next Sundar Pichai or Satya Nadella in future.
And those other several millions of smart Indian's who choose to stay back out of choice or compulsion continue to hope for better life in our cities, but it just remains a distant dream. It's time India start respecting its urban citizens who surely deserve a better life. Time has come for us to change our defensive strategy of "preventing brain drain" to a more offensive strategy of "brain attract and retain"
I fear, that the gap between these developed civilizations & India is only increasing. Even if we become a country with highest GDP, we can never claim to be a developed nation without fixing the basic problems in our cities and without showing some civility on our city roads.
Its high time we start moonshot projects to get promoted from a "Developing" to a "Developed" nation
The existing failed cities are actually so dumb, that no amount of smart city projects will make them smart, because there is a lot of ground to be covered. They have gone wrong beyond repair. It's like a badly written software with millions of patches. No amount of bug fixes is going to make it right. What we desperately need is a re-design and re-work from scratch.
We not only have to catch up to the living standards of cities in developed countries but aspire to beat them. Build new cities that are better than any other city in the world. That's when we come closer to the dream of being called a "developed" country of the world. The parameters that makes the city good, better or best is perhaps a great topic for the next post.
A crowd sourced, crowd funded, open sourced, self-sufficient, self-sustaining, energy efficient, ready for future technologies, smart-by-default, economically viable & limited capacity microcities built from scratch.
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