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Start-ups are critical for progress in India’s smart city mission

India’s national Smart Cities Mission (SCM) and its policy commission (NITI Aayog) hosted a Smart City Arcade, a consultative session with tech start-ups that are looking to collaborate with India’s smart cities.

The event helped corporate and government organisations explore emerging Indian smart city technologies showcased at T-Hub premises.

According to its website, T-Hub is a public/private partnership between the government of Telangana, three of India’s premier academic institutes (IIIT-H, ISB, and NALSAR), and private sector leaders. It stands at the intersection of the start-up, academic, research, and government sectors.

Collaboration between public and private sectors has been established to be crucial to the growth of India’s smart city mission.

Some of the key focus areas of this year’s edition of the T-Hub’s Arcade Series were smart transportation, waste management, water management, intelligent housing, smart digital infrastructure, sustainable ecosystems, accessibility, and digital inclusivity.

Start-ups are expected to benefit from this programme by scaling-up speed and pitch to prospectective client partners. Smart cities will be able to explore innovative start-up products, opportunities to possibly co-create solutions, or opt for high-yielding investments.

These smart city arcades intend to bring together start-ups, with innovations that solve urbanisation challenges and industries that will use those solutions, to empower the country’s smart city mission.

A participant at the event said that there are multiple stages before any smart city becomes successful. The process of building smart cities needs to be sped up and this is where innovation will play a significant role.

The government’s smart cities programme has offered several great opportunities for start-ups to develop products and solutions. There are many areas of urban governance and delivery of citizen services that can be improved with the use of technology. Many start-ups from Telangana have already been successful in providing innovative smart city solutions.

According to a representative of T-Hub, developing world-class infrastructure and a strong set of smart cities is vital for India’s economic growth, and innovation is the only way to achieve that effectively.

When it was launched in 2016, India’s smart city mission set a target to transform 100 cities into smart cities by 2020, but progress has been slow due to a lack of understanding and inadequate technical training and skill building.

However, the programme has managed to cover some ground. According to a report, the Minister of Urban and Housing Affairs noted that 148 projects have been completed as of 2018. Additionally, 407 projects have started work and another 237 projects are in the tendering stage.

Strategic components of area-based development of the programme include city improvement (retrofitting), city renewal (redevelopment), and city extension (greenfield development).

82 out of 99 cities now have functional special purpose vehicles (SPVs) that monitor, assess, and implement their cities smart city projects. Further, state and central governments have created an efficient system for the flow of money, which has reduced finance-related problems.

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