Make citizens smart first

Despite the popularity that the smart city concept gained through the years, one thing where the ‘smartness’ is seriously lacking is in the participation of citizens. Authorities have always preferred technological approach rather than a citizen-centric approach while developing urban infra. The very essence of urban development is individual action; therefore if citizens are made aware of their responsibility towards their city then the city can actually be made smart

The new development plans including implementation of the so-called ‘smart initiatives’ are being carried out for selected 100 cities in India. The development in technology ranging from sensors to big data to artificial intelligence and more has made this smart city, an ambitious concept, a reality. But, we need to understand if the growing tech, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) is actually helping the cause of making cities smarter. Citizens are integral and the most significant part of a city. And, it is quite evident that amid all the hype and enthusiasm of developing smart cities, it is forgotten that citizens also need to get smarter to achieve ‘Smart City’ in its true sense.
‘Smartness’ for citizens can be referred to in terms of behavioural changes. Smartest cities can be made using cutting-edge tech but what will still be needed is the people’s outreach. And to make citizens truly smart, awareness campaigns can play a crucial role. Although the civic authorities are investing in smart initiatives, they also need to invest in sensitizing citizens on efficient usage of smart services. A simple example could be the installation of smart meters. But, in order to reduce energy consumption and efficiently use electricity, the mere installation of smart meters will not work. Energy-efficient lifestyles must be propagated to the citizens by the authorities beforehand.
Hence, it will not be wrong to advocate that citizens’ participation and awareness can be beneficial for making a city smarter. In order to make citizens more responsible towards the city, they need to be made more aware of the entire concept of building smart cities. Citizen participation must be ensured in every aspect, from sanitation to safety measures, from an integrated transport system to sustainable use of resources. Involvement of citizens or taking a citizen-centric approach is a sign of better governance.

‘Smartness’ for citizens can be referred to in terms of behavioural changes. Smartest cities can be made using cutting-edge tech but what will still be needed is the people’s outreach

Amsterdam: A lighthouse example
The authorities in Amsterdam has devised a ‘smart citizen kit’ for better involvement and participation of its citizens. One of the salient features of the project is that the people are involved in the measurement of air quality levels. The kit enables people to not only measure the air quality but also humidity, noise, pollution, temperature, carbon dioxide levels and density of oxides of nitrogen. Such a move involves every citizen in Amsterdam to know the ground reality about their environment and pollution level. This also helps them to relate with steps the government takes against pollution whenever needed.

Need of the hour
In the Indian scenario, smart cities concept has always been an infrastructural and technologically driven initiative. One of the major reasons why the city governance in India is not at a desired level is the lack of citizen participation. The need of the hour is to make people aware about the ground reality of urban issues that a city faces and judicious usage of urban resources like electricity, water, roads, education, and more.

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