Smart Cities – Framework for a digital India

By: By Mohammad Suhail
The concept of a smart city has been formulated for optimum utilisation of resources, and particularly information and communication technologies (ICTs) for better safety and security. Such a city also ensures better spatial planning in an urban set-up.

The concept of a smart city emerged in Europe in the early 19th century. However, the connotation of a smart city means something quite different in the Indian perspective. The Ministry of Urban Development (MoUD), Government of India, released guidelines to make our cities city smarter a short while ago (MoUD, 2015). According to these guidelines, a smart city ensures a better urban experience for its residents through integration of urban planning systems, efficient service delivery, smart governance, energy management and conservation of resources through information and communication technologies (ICTs), and a digital information repository that enables attainment of various socio-economic and development goals.

This involves the use of an efficient geographical information system (GIS) to map, model, query, and analyse large volumes of data within a single database at a given location. While helping to maintain accurate locational data of regulated facilities, an efficient GIS encompasses a land information system, with smart buildings, smart water supplies, smart energy grid and smart mobility, an environmental information system, resource information system, network information system, picture processing information system, design information system, spatial data processing system, spatial information system, multi-purpose cadaster and AM/FM- automated mapping and facilities management. It also ensures an intelligent computing infrastructure with cutting-edge cyber-physical systems and innovation support.

Concept of smart city

A smart city, in short, uses ICTs to make the best of available social and environmental capital to profile the competitiveness of cities (Aikins, 2012). This means using ICT to make the critical infrastructural components and services in a city more interactive and efficient (Ali, 2014). It also involves the deployment and integration of ICTs – including wireless and broadband connections, advanced analytics software and intelligent sensors to improve the quality of life, and bring in much needed behavioural change among residents, businesses and the government for sustainable growth. A simplified connotation of a smart city is presented below in Figure 1.


For instance, smart mobility involves smarter transport, electric vehicles and dynamic traffic control. Similarly, smart environment would include a greener environment achieved through pollution control and climate change adaptation strategies. Smart utility ensures energy efficiency, reduction of emissions and smart metering, while smart education would include a supportive environment for research and knowledge. Smart infrastructure, for instance, would be inclusive of a smart water supply, drainage and sewerage system, as also an excellent solid waste management system and adequate power for smart living.Thus, geospatial techniques would be used to provide the compulsory inputs that can equip and support the entire framework of the smart city.

Need for smart cities in India

  • As with many other parts of the developing world, India has been experiencing a rapid pace in urbanisation. The population in urban India grew to reach nearly 350 million during the 1901-2011 period, and urban settlements rose from 1967 to 7935 during the same period (Fig. 2). However, urban infrastructure failed to keep pace with this growth. Thus, the reach of drinking water supply, public transport, sewage and solid waste management in the growing urban centres left much to be desired, and abysmally low in reach.
  • No city has achieved 100 per cent coverage through 24×7 water supply for all its residents.
  • Only 74 per cent of urban households are served with piped water.
  • Only 65 of India’s 423 class I cities had formal city-bus services in 2012.
  • Only 30 per cent of Indian cities have sewage treatment facilities.
  • Only 32.7 per cent of India’s urban population has access to a piped sewerage system.
  • Around 12.6 percent of India’s urban population still defecates in the open.
  • Only 72 per cent of India’s solid waste is collected and only 30 per cent is segregated. Scientific treatment and disposal is generally non-existent.
  • Around 24 per cent of India’s urban population lives in slums.

Integration of GIS based planning and monitoring in smart cities

The purpose of using GIS based planning and monitoring is that base maps generated while preparing the database helps in producing meaningful outputs in the digital domain. Visualisation thus achieved can directly translate into planning of real-world policy implementation, and helps monitoring of social indicators. This facilitates improvement in living conditions and need-base assessment. This is why geospatial data and geographical information systems are essential components of a smart city.

Nowadays, GIS serves as an important tool to map and analyse services for citizens, the participation of citizens in governance, open government, transparency,and efficient and sustainable management. A GIS based network can provide invaluable inputs not only for planning road, sewerage and drinking water services, but can also help manage them. For instance, a slum development plan can be easily integrated into a local development plan for the economy.

  • Recently, the government of India has launched national urban information system (NUIS) to develop an inventory of various resources for urban planning and development. The various steps to develop a smart city involves:
  • Preparation of a master/development/zonal plan
  • Inventory of land and natural resources
  • Design of settlement pattern
  • Study of slums and blighted areas
  • Improvement of the urban environment
  • Redevelopment/re-densification of towns/cities
  • Monitoring of land use and planning
  • Monitoring of land regulation and urban fringes
  • Transport planning and environmental assessment.

The credit for being India’s first smart city goes to Lavasa in Maharashtra. The city provides management services, e-governance, ICT infrastructure and value added services, including intelligent home solutions and digital lifestyles for city dwellers. It also offers touch-point automation, door and motion sensors, beam detectors, and on-call transport services.


The proposed ‘GIFT City’ in Gandhinagar, Gujarat is another example of a smart city. GIFT will have a central command centre to monitor a city-wide information technology (IT) network that shall manage, energy efficient cooling systems (instead of air conditioning), high-tech waste collection systems and respond to emergencies. IT systems will also play an important role for online water quality monitoring in Surat, digital buildings plan in Coimbatore, and GIS linked property assessment in Kanpur, among others.




Urban services and infrastructure have failed to keep pace with India’s rapid urbanisation. Smart cities, with their extensive use of ICTs spell an attempt to overcome the shortcomings in Indian urban planning, and can help usher in a better quality of life for all.


Ali, O.B. (2014). Smart cities and Geospatial Technology: GeoSmart Cities. Oman International Exhibition Center, Muscat.

Aikins, SK, (2012). Managing E-Government Projects: Concepts, Issues, and Best Practices: Concepts, Issues, and Best Practices. IGI Global Publishing. USA.

Biswas, V; Kumar, D and Thakur, S. (2015). Efficiency of information and communication technology (ICT) in sustainable smart city development. International Journal of new innovations in engineering and technology. Vol. 3 (4), pp. 38-41.

MOUD (2015). Smart City: Mission transformation, Mission, Statements and guidelines. Ministry of Urban Development, government of India. New Delhi.

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