"If You're Creating A Smart City Today, Start With A Strong Infrastructure." Digital infrastructure solutions expert Ravinder pal Singh shares his wisdom with Entrepreneur India about the immediate need to have a strong foundation to build a Smart India

By Ritu Kochar

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In India, we can easily get an Uber or Ola at the click of our hand. However, what will you do when the cab you booked is stuck in traffic? We can bring the finest system from across the world, which would and are bringing ease and comfort in life, but these have no point when the base structure is missing.

This is the digital foundational infrastructure India needs at the moment, says Ravinder Pal Singh, Senior Industry Consultant and Expert in Digital infrastructure solutions, to create sustainable and Smart Business processes. As an empaneled consultant for India Smart City Mission and Delhi Mumbai Infrastructure Corridor (DMIC) projects, Singh shared his wisdom with us at our Entrepreneur India Annual Convention 2016 about the immediate need to have a strong foundation to build a Smart India.

What makes a city smart?

The biggest problem in Indian cities is the rate at which the infrastructure is deteriorating. You can very well guess the situation, by looking at all the water-logging that happens even when it rains only for 20 minutes in Delhi or any other major cities of India. The roads and the sewage go under the water and are hardly commutable. Now when you talk of smart cities, they will be built on digital foundation. Again the same logic applies, if we don't think of the base of digital infrastructure in the right way, having lot of applications in a smart city will not make a city smart. It's good that we have a lot of apps like Uber, Oyo, on top of you to make things easier. But until you have a strong digital foundational infrastructure, you cannot have a smart city. We'll end up having the same problems after four or five years of setting a smart city. So my take is that if you are creating a smart city today, start with a strong infrastructure, which has to be purely digital, and then build on top of that doing the reverse which is happening right now.

What should be the mindset behind building a smart city?

Mindset is one of the biggest issues. We have a tendency to look at what other countries are doing and then try to copy that culture here. Now the problem we don't foresee is this – in Europe for example, you can go and set up a waste management system or garbage tracking system and it works fine. If we bring the same solution to India, it won't work because your base infrastructure is missing. When you don't even have sufficient number of garbage cans in the city, then how can you follow the system that is completely based on such facilities being in place? You don't have the right sewage drains in the city. And you don't have the people behavior, while in Europe nobody throws waste outside, in India, we do the reverse. So it has to have a combination of two things. See what developed countries are doing, it's good to look at that, but don't copy it as it is. Look at our basic problems and again as I said, you start with the basic foundation and then build on top of that. In developed nations the base foundation is beautiful. Their roads and networks are beautiful, so you put applications on top of it, and then it works. Here you can't do the same.

What kind of technology do you think can help in building smart cities?

Various! As a technologist, I will say that in every respect you structure the city, technology has and will have a big play. For instance, we are always cribbing that we may never have good roads or good traffic signals, so how can we manage your traffic? Let me tell you, there are cities where roads are much narrower and traffic density is much higher, but in spite of that, they don't suffer from the kind of traffic jams that we do. That for me, is the management problem. With technology what we can do is we can do better and intelligent management of traffic and we can enforce some of the behavior, which ideally people should do themselves, like not driving in the wrong lane. If we put video analytics in a city it can actually track people who are trying to subvert that. That will be a forced behavior which actually helps to bring out a discipline in people here.

Ritu Kochar

Former Staff, Entrepreneur India

Ritu used to work as a Feature writer for Entrepreneur India.

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