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Smart Cities are great !! but ..... Why not "Smart Villages"

e-Governance Consultant

Background

Government of India has ventured into creating 100+ “Smart Cities” across the country, where each city is expected to have smart ICT infrastructure, public facing smart, transparent and accountable services. Focus areas include assured & adequate public utilities like water supply, electricity supply, sanitation, solid waste management, public transport, robust ICT connectivity, urban slum development and Governance etc.Here is the concept of creating “Smart Village” along with making cities smarter. 

The idea comes from the fact that any of our cities are historically collection of villages. Example: The city of Bangalore had villages like Ulsoor, Yeshantpur, Ganganagar, Madiwalla etc. around the central district (as known today). Over the time with urbanization and growth of the industry and population, these villages started getting connected and eventually became part of the Bangalore city. Amalgamation of more and more villages made the Bangalore city bigger and lead to administrative formation of BBMP (Brihat Banagalore Mahanagar Palike). This is also applicable to most of the cities in India.

If we make the villages “Smarter“ at the early stage and inter-connecting these villages will eventually lead to making the City smarter. Villages, in this context we are considering a village with 5000 to 8000 population.

Creating smartness in cities vis-à-vis villages are to be looked at with different perspective. Certain areas like water supplies, electricity ICT connectivity and Governance are common between cities and villages, however certain issues are different in cities and villages like solid waste management, local transportation, slum development, traffic management etc. are more acute and serious in urban localities in cities however sanitation, clean and availability of electricity, road connectivity, ICT development needs more attention in the villages. Hence, both the initiatives have to co-exit with proper alignment.

What is “Smart Village”?

Any village with following characteristic (indicative) can be termed as “Smart Village”:

A) Civic Infrastructure

                -  Village is self-sufficient in Power generation and consumption i.e. Less/ No dependencies with the National Power Grid.

                -  Appropriate Sanitation Infrastructure in line with Central government “Swachh Bharat” initiative.

               -  Availability of Potable drinking water to every household

              -  Village has inter-connected roads and has easy access to National/ State highways

B) Information & Communication Technology (ICT) Engagement

               -  Village is inter-connected with Internet

               -  Monetary transactions within the village eco-system are “less-cash” or cash-less.

C) Smart Governance of Public services

              -  Village has “Smart healthcare preventive Centers”

              -  The village (or cluster of villages) has easy access to specializes health care centers/ hospitals

              - Village has smart schools and easy access to a collage

              -  Smart Agricultural processes are practiced for cultivation, preservation & distribution.

Why Smart Villages?

                -  “Grass Root” Level Development – As mentioned earlier that development of “Smart Villages” will eventually lead to “Smart Cities”.

                 -  Increase of productivity of village population will lead to increased “per capita Income” in the village with increased economic & development activities

                 -  Will prevent migration of population from Villages to the cities

Challenges

The above terms are purely indicative and by no means can be considered as exhaustive. The solutions/ outcomes are long term and each village needs to be considered separately considering socio-economic factors, availability of local resources, geography and willingness.

Broad challenges include choosing appropriate technology solutions and processes, administrative structure for sustainability, increasing revenue generation capacity, adaption of development model and finally funding.

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I have 35+ years of an accomplished career as a techno-entrepreneur, and having wide-ranging experience of the corporate world, start-up and government sector in the area of Information & Communication Technology (ICT). I have spent 25+ years with corporate like Wipro, IBM (T J Watson Research Center, Yorktown, NY), Cisco & Tektronix. In 2005, I took a major deviation in my professional carrier and plunged into the government sector. For last 10+ years, I have been deeply engaged in various e-Governance initiatives (including mega initiative like Unique ID (Aadhaar) of state governments (worked as Principal Consultant to Centre for e-Governance, Government of Karnataka, Central government and social sector initiatives by World Bank). I have also gone through several Strategic Management training programs at Michigan Business School at University of Michigan, USA and IIM Ahmedabad. I am a post graduate in Computer Science from BITS, Pilani.