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The union government has unveiled an ambitious plan to build 100 smart cities in India.

A smart city uses technology to deliver civic services efficiently. Technology enables the integration of government departments, planning processes, information from various sources, etc., and the creation of an intelligent and interconnected network of infrastructure services.

The government’s seriousness in delivering on its promise is reflected in the Rs 70 billion set aside in the Union Budget 2014-15 for the development of smart cities. The government will focus on making the existing cities smarter and developing new satellite towns.

This plan has spurred significant global interest in the last couple of months. International technology firms are submitting proposals to local governments, bidding for projects and collaborating with real estate developers to build greenfield digital cities. Singapore has offered to replicate its Tianjin Knowledge City model, a Sino-Singapore collaboration, in India. The UK government has extended a £1 billion credit line to help British companies exploit the opportunity. India has also sought Japan’s investment in building these 100 smart cities.

The state governments are also not far behind. Odisha has already submitted a proposal to the central government to cover 10 cities under the 100 Smart Cities’ plan. The Gujarat government has started preparing a new policy framework and road map for developing the existing cities into smart cities.

Several initiatives have already been taken for smarter management of Indian cities. The government’s National e-Governance Plan is aiding urban governance. Smart grid pilots in Bengaluru, Mangalore and Mysore are under way, and 13 others have been approved. Advanced communications systems, using next-generation technologies and optic fibre networks, are being deployed. A few cities are also exploring intelligent transportation systems to manage traffic congestion and integrated fare collection systems. There is an increasing focus on smart buildings, ensuring energy efficiency, safety and security.

In addition, many pilot smart city projects such as the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City, Kochi Smart City, Lavasa, Electronics City, and Palava are being developed through private sector participation. Meanwhile, planning for seven new smart cities under the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor has been under way for the last few years.

India is urbanising rapidly. By some estimates, over half of India’s population will live in its cities by 2030. This figure will cross 70 per cent by 2050. Smart city development is critical to managing this growth.

Building new cities and upgrading existing ones are fraught with challenges pertaining to integrated master planning, political alignment, financing and stakeholder management. An enabling policy framework and better alignment of government agencies between and within all levels will be required.

The mission of this conference is to highlight the opportunities in smart cities, discuss the challenges, examine implementation strategies and showcase technologies. The conference will also present noteworthy global initiatives and projects.

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