Urban Quest For Efficiency

Urban ecosystem is degrading everywhere and the impact would amplify further if the anticipated impacts of climate change are added. Cities have to re-align urban governance, policy and their projects in sync with ecological principles. The morphology of operational mechanism is directly linked with the immunity of urban metabolism of a city. Technology has played a significant role in the field of city management and the changes it is bringing are encouraging.

Policy and projects based on urban metabolism of a city should strike a balance between government agencies, business houses, local communities and all sections of society the reforms and changes the built environment requires. These reforms can be brought in with utilizing modern technological tools with opening up of public data. Availability of user data can enable individuals to respond to specific issues, leading to a more custom-made and effective approach. It is encouraging that many local corporations have started recognizing the importance of engaging citizens and business houses in solving urban issues. Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation had organized an event in which the corporation has provided citizen and government data to students and asked them to come out with a scientific solution.

No city can afford to ignore these technologies such as Big Data and Internet of Things (IoT) that has been improving urban services in general worldwide. The most appropriate example is analysis of population flows and planning urban transport systems.

According to a report by McKinsey Global, globally, $400 billion a year could be saved by “making more of existing infrastructure” through improved demand management and maintenance. Take the example of technological intervention in transport management, Israel has introduced a 13-mile fast lane on Highway 1 between Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion Airport. The lane uses a toll system that calculates fees based on traffic at the time of travel. To make it work, the system counts the cars on the road; it can also evaluate the space between cars to measure congestion. This is real-time pattern recognition of a very high order. The information is then put to use in a way that increases “throughput,” or the amount of traffic the road can bear. If traffic density is high, tolls are high; if there are few cars on the road, charges are cheap. This not only keeps toll revenues flowing but also reduces congestion by “steering” demand. Such interventions on Indian urban roads can also be helpful in controlling congestion.

To work towards a sustainable urban future, a holistic approach is needed. This will also require that citizens play a role in putting a stop to depletion of urban ecosystem. Local bodies with citizens have to make sure that patterns of resource consumption are checked and this will eventually lead to conservation of water, energy and other resources required for running cities.

Digital technologies have become the veins of city management systems around the globe. They have boosted the immunity of urban metabolism in a way that is helping them fix their basic faults and improve efficiency. The embedding of technology has also shifted the relation paradigm between citizens and urban local bodies

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