India’s “Smart Cities” – where could better Software for Domain Experts help?

India has a very interesting initiative to develop ‘smart cities’ with $15bn funding released.

 

The core elements are Adequate water supply; Assured electricity supply; Sanitation, including solid waste management; Efficient urban mobility and public transport; Affordable housing (especially for the poor); Robust IT connectivity and digitization; Good governance (especially e-governance and citizen participation); Sustainable environment; Safety and security of citizens (particularly women, children and the elderly); Health; Education

 

Let’s try and understand this better from a ‘Software for Domain Experts’ perspective.

 

The task of maintaining an adequate water supply could benefit from better software – understanding the condition of the water delivery assets (pipelines, pumps, reservoirs), understanding water supply and demand, managing maintenance and workforce. A lot of expert judgement is required in all of this and better software can help.

 

The ‘assured electricity supply’ is also an area software could help. There are long term supply issues (modelling demand and making sure production capacity is being developed), a challenge of building and maintaining a network (balancing limited budget with demands), and short term issues of matching supply and demand to avoid blackouts.

 

For ‘sanitation and solid waste management’ – there is the task of allocating budget to sewer construction, designing them and managing this process; and also monirtoring the condition of the infrastructure – for solid waste a service can be continually improved, with more trucks operating efficientyly with trained staff.

 

Coming onto urban mobility, this is a tough one for software to solve. Software can map traffic in real time, traffic simulation software can model what the traffic flows would be like with a certain change. This is perhaps more one for political judgement.

 

Affordable housing: it is tough to see where software could contribute to this. If a city has a budget and various sites, perhaps the software could automatically work out the right sites to spend the money on new housing. But it seems more likely that so much deep local knowledge would be required, the software wouldn’t be much use.

 

Robust IT connectivity: this sounds more like allocating government budgets to building and maintaining IT systems where private compnaies haven’t done it, or trying to create incentives for private companies to fill in the gaps? The software can identify areas of poor connectivity probbaly.

 

Good governance: this does not have much to do with software. Software is not very good at determining who is governing well and who isn’t.

 

Sustainable environment: this concept is extremely broad. It could mean CO2 emissions from vehicles and buildings, particulate matter, waste recycling. Within these there are conflicting objectives (diesel cars have higher particulates and lower CO2). If this could be broken down into specific subjects maybe software could help with one.

 

Safety and security of citizens: also tough to see how software could help. It could track reported acts of violence. Policing software can do various things (like maintain a database of criminals).

 

Health: software could track many aspects of health management and provide a very useful function into what is working and what isn’t. Money is spent, results are achieved (or aren’t achieved). Other tasks can be made like recruit doctors or do training.

 

Education: software can track education if there are specific objectives to be met. For example you can see what the test scores are in a certain region, if those are your objectives. You could track employer satisfaction levels. Although I am not sure software for managing education is a good idea.

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