Its not strange at all that some words catch people’s fancy and soon start being bandied about without anyone pausing for a moment to think what the hoopla is all about. ‘Smart Cities’ is one such ‘fad’ word. It’s suddenly become the flavour of the season, especially so since the powers that be want to sell another dream so that we the people somehow forget the reality that we confront every single day.
Another aspect of this ‘smart city’ concept is the large consulting firms and technology giants have everything to gain since there’s big money involved and hence write papers on it, sponsor conferences and seminars where dazzling presentations are made to aggressively fuel the hype further and sell the idea to the city fathers.
For me a smart city should first and foremost mean a more liveable city, which offers the basics to every citizen rich or poor, be it good roads, water, consistent power supply, affordable transport, schools, open play grounds, cultural hot-spots, accessibility to differently abled, environmental care etc. I find it most strange that a city that cant handle a heavy downpour without its streets turning into rivers, power black-outs, landline phones being rendered dead and the entire city coming to a virtual standstill being promised the label of a smart city.
Incidentally not one ‘smart city’ in the world is a success story so much so that there isn’t even an agreeable definition of a smart city.
We who cant run a half decent city bus service, a waste management system, a citywide traffic and parking system, an urban planning that inspires any confidence and we are being sold another humongously expensive concept of a smart city! Remember it is we the citizens who will have to ultimately pay for this.
What we really need probably are smart citizens who are participative in the city’s development. Use the technology backbone by all means to ensure greater transparency, monitoring and data-driven decision making, so that if a school teacher of a corporation school doesn’t show up we know, if a religious structure comes up on public land we know, if a mall knowingly flouts the city’s developmental regulations we know, if area shown as parking is usurped by the owner we know and as involved citizens to do something about it.
I may stand out like a sore thumb for going against the tide but I guess that’s smarter than suffering when the ‘smart city’ will seem like a dumb idea with a huge price to pay by future generations too.