How is Pune emerging as a smart and citizen friendly city?

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Pune is rapidly emerging as a new academic and entrepreneurial hub spot. Being the 9th most populous country in India and 2nd in the state of Maharashtra, the city’s municipal corporation is leaving no stone unturned in making this metropolitan smart, digital and citizen friendly. This also gets corroborated when recently in a smart city challenge, organized by the Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD) – Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) stood second amongst all the city urban local bodies (ULBs) that participated.

Profile of the City

Pune is one of the fastest growing regions in the entire Asia-Pacific region. Being a home to number of educational and technical institutes, it has also emerged as the new IT and Startup hub in the map of India. It is estimated that more than 400 startups are today registered in the city of Pune. Students and young IT professionals makes the most of the population mix in the city. PMC has been playing an active role in enhancing the engagement of citizens and improving the scenario of urban governance in the city. Corporation is the first city administration in India to launch city app store. It has set up a dedicated unit to manage 8 Social Media channels as per its Social Media strategy.

Rebooting Pune: City Digital Strategy 2018-2020

In one of its unique and new initiative, the PMC has launched its blueprint for making the city of Pune digital and well equipped with other e-services. The name of the document reads as “Rebooting Pune: City Digital Strategy 2018-2020”. The idea is driven by the vision of making Pune the “most livable city” and according to the PMC it can only be done by interlinking the digital services with the existing systems and processes. Today around 22% of Punekars have access to either laptop or computer system while 64% are having access to mobile phones, which can play a vital role in determining the outcome of this entire policy. “Pune is the best place to grow and get exposure for students. But, today the city is facing major challenges like increasing student population, growing traffic congestion, loss of greenery etc. Especially, after the metro work, traffic is becoming a major problem along with the broken roads everywhere. Parking is still a big cause to worry for the administration” says Madhu Khatri, a student living since last three years in the city.

This strategy of PMC is based on three fundamental aspects:

  • Resource Utilization- Through improved data and digital systems in place, the corporation aims at better and enhanced utilization of resources.
  • Low Carbon Footprint- By creating an integrated digital ecosystem, the aim to lower the carbon footprint is also on the agenda of PMC.
  • Inclusive Community- The main objective of this entire strategy is to make the society more inclusive with improved connectivity and updated digital infrastructure.

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Pune Municipal Corporation (Source: Indian Express)

Aim of the Strategy

The entire strategy by PMC is being developed keeping in mind the following aims:

  • To simplify the services and streamline the citizen experience across government departments.
  • To make use of new communication channels (Social Media) in order to enable citizen participative government.
  • To make better policy-making decisions by utilizing improved Data Analytics.
  • As a part of its Smart City proposal, Pune aims to solve its core infrastructure issues by using low-cost Information-Communication & Technology (ICT) based solutions. Some of the solutions include Smart Pune Public Transport System, Vehicle Health Monitoring System, Public Information System (PIS), and Smart Water Solution.

Four Pillars of the Strategy

PMC has identified four core pillars of this strategy, namely:

  • Digital Infrastructure– For the size of such city and the expansive urbanization that is taking place, the government needs to have a robust information and communication network. Therefore, the primary emphasis under the strategy is being provided to develop a comprehensive digital infrastructure comprising of self-reliant and innovative wireless networks, sensors etc.
  • Digital Services and Payments– Under this pillar, the corporation is focusing on interlinking all the services and enabling the digital payments for the same. The main reasons for doing so are providing cost-effective means to the citizens, convenience, time efficient and increased transparency.
  • Digital Engagement and Communication– Jan Bhaagidari or Citizen Engagement is one of the primary focus areas for the Modi government. By creating a smart digital forum for hosting the city issues, PMC is trying to create an ecosystem where all the stakeholders including citizens can come and discuss about the issues which are affecting their lives on a daily basis. Through creation of such smart and digitally driven module, the engagement of citizens will certainly enhance and will lead to more inclusive and focused development.
  • Digital Enterprise– To monitor the daily operations of the city, a smart city operations center will be established. A city’s digital strategy has a broad mandate that impacts citizens, businesses, employees and government. Therefore, it is important to identify a dedicated cross-department digital services team, assign accountabilities and responsibilities for key digital initiatives and identify digital skills training needed for staff, which will be covered under this pillar of the strategy.

Way Ahead:

For formulating implementation and execution strategy a steering committee has been set up. To include the citizens in the process a feedback channel via PMC Care has been established. “I have been living in Pune for last six years and the greenery, weather and the overall ease of living is absolutely the best thing about this city. The travel from one place to another is comparatively easy in Pune. And yes, I am satisfied with the work of PMC. But the situation has started changing now. A major challenge for the city administration will be to strike the balance between the green cover and developing the infrastructure. Also, the city administration must now start thinking about improving the public transportation system” says Pooja, a law student.

PMC offers a good case study for other ULBs too. Today, the Indian cities are facing tough and extreme challenges like water management, environmental degradation, sewage treatment, parking solutions etc. The rate of urbanization is increasing heavily. In such a situation, positive efforts like these can prove to be fruitful interventions for the public at large. The conversion of policies into actions is necessary and especially at the city level governance, this is a very crucial factor. Majority of the ULBs are struggling with funding crunch, manpower shortage and lack of political will to initiate the series of reforms which are very much needed to make the process of rapid urbanization smooth for citizens as well as the environment.  The usage of data analytics in city planning, governance and administration can bring a serious change in the system. In fact, for creating smart and sustainable city forums the use of digital channels and data analytics can create a deep impact in terms of city governance, sustainable development and environmental conservation.

Author: Rishabh Shrivastava (Editor in Chief, The Analysis) 

You can reach the author at: eic.analysis@gmail.com