India’s Smart City Mission gets international affirmation

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Government of India’s flagship initiative Smart City Mission has got its first international affirmation, with a London School of Economics study praising the government’s effort, saying Indian smart cities could become lighthouses for other cities around the world.

Two years after the launch of the mission to smarten up 98 cities by promoting economic growth and improved governance, the study has commended the programme. The study was conducted following the selection of the first set of 20 cities in January 2016 through a competitive process to initiate the mission.

The research studied the proposals of each city and conducted stakeholder interviews in order to gauge the selection process and the quality of the mission. The Smart Cities Challenge, which was the first time India used an open national competitive framework to distribute funding to local governments for urban development, has been termed as ‘the most innovative aspect of the Mission.’

The study praised the innovative and transparent manner in which the challenge was conducted, stating the process encouraged new thinking amongst local leaders and encouraged them to ‘perform well under pressure’ and ‘work across departments.’

“This is a major step forward in a country with historic traditions of urban bureaucratic control… It shows that the central government’s active role in facilitating greater citizen participation at the local level was critical; and has immense potential to improve developmental outcomes,” the study stated.

The research also commended India’s Smart City Mission for its different approach from the global conception of smart cities. The study, submitted to urban development ministry says, “India’s experience navigating this process will have implications and lessons for other rapidly urbanising regions. In that way, India’s smart cities can be ‘lighthouses’ – not just for Indian cities but also for cities around the world.”