What is a 'smart city' and what does it mean for urban India?

Edited By: Sparshita Saxena WION Web Team
New Delhi, India Updated: Dec 27, 2019, 07:53 PM(IST)

File photo: Delhi Metro Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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The prime minister has touted the Smart City Mission as one of his government's flagship programmes to transform the urban landscape of India. 

PM Modi, right after assuming charge in his first term, launched the '100 Smart Cities Mission' in 2015. The Mission was launched with an aim to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life by enabling local development and harnessing technology.

But what would define a 'smart city'? And what does it mean for India? The concept of a 'smart city' would vary from country to country depending on the level of development achieved by a nation and what all it aspires its key cities to manifest. There exists no universal definition of a smart city. 

"Even in India, there is no one way of defining a smart city," reads the official website of Smart City Mission. 

However, if one loosely puts together the basic idea of a smart city in India, it would translate into a wishlist of a city dweller with respect to the level of infrastructure, services and other amenities "that describes his or her level of aspiration". 

To develop any city into a 'smart' one would ideally involve the urban planners to develop and transform the entire urban ecosystem, to give it a comprehensive overhaul in terms of institutional, physical, social and economic infrastructure. 

"This can be a long term goal and cities can work towards developing such comprehensive infrastructure incrementally, adding on layers of ‘smartness’," Smart City Mission explains on the website. 

It is estimated that around 40 per cent of the Indian population will be housed in the country's urban areas which will account to over 70 per cent of GDP contribution by 2030. Therefore, improving the quality of life of people living in such areas and attracting more people and investment to bolster economic growth and development becomes imperative. The Smart City Mission was launched to meet this vision. 

At the heart Mission is the idea to achieve some core infrastructure elements like adequate water and assured electricity supply; robust IT connectivity and digitalisation; efficient urban mobility and public transport; affordable housing; healthcare and educational services; optimum safety and security; sustainable environment, among others. 

The Mission involves 100 Indian cities to be developed to an extent to exhibit the following features, says the official Mission website. 

- Promoting mixed land use, making land use more efficient. 

- Expanding housing opportunities for all

- Creating walkable localities – reducing congestion, air pollution and resource depletion

- Boosting the local economy, ensuring security. 

- Preserving and developing open spaces such as parks, playgrounds, and recreational spaces

- Promoting a variety of transport options and boosting public transport

- Giving an identity to the city and boosting its local culture 

- Applying Smart Solutions to infrastructure and services in area-based development to make them better. 


The prime minister has touted the Smart City Mission as one of his government's flagship programmes to transform the urban landscape of India. 

"These initiatives have not only helped usher in a new paradigm of urban development but have also transformed crores of lives," PM Modi had tweeted out earlier this year. 

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