Between 1991 and 2017, India has seen enormous economic growth. India’s growth, credited to strategic economic reforms since 1991 according to an IMF working paper, has given the population the initial resources required to build entire industries from the ground up in areas like manufacturing and agriculture. However, as we enter the latter part of the decade, priorities for investment are shifting in order to empower a new generation of workers.
India is one of the world’s youngest countries, with 65% of its population sitting within the working age group. Globally, this puts India at a significant advantage, as it is estimated that over a quarter of the people joining the world’s workforce by 2025 will be Indian. Given the right infrastructure and opportunity, economists have suggested that India’s youth could add a projected 2% to its current GDP growth rate.
Many of these young people are flocking to India’s cities in search of economic opportunity and a better life. The challenge is that with such rapid population growth, India’s cities must be ready to nurture a booming urban workforce.
The good news is that the government has mobilised to tackle the issue. Current Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has been consciously trying to project a more positive view of urban living. ‘Smart cities’ was a key narrative during his election campaign and the ‘Smart Cities Mission’ has become one of India’s flagship policies. As well as optimising city living for its inhabitants, the transformation is designed to attract external investment from a number of different sources, including the private sector, entrepreneurs, developers and the public. This will be crucial to supporting India’s smart city initiative.
This, coupled with advancements in affordability and scalability of internet of things (IoT) networks, has created a golden opportunity for India to redesign its cities, reframing them in the cultural narrative as social and economic hubs that will nurture their young workforce. IoT can do far more than simply allow you to switch your heating on remotely. India’s smart cities project is all about how IoT can revolutionise city infrastructure to create economic opportunity.
One example is water quality. In India, coverage through piped water supply in urban areas ranges between 55% and 89%, with some cities suffering from poor infrastructure. Smart Water Networks (SWN) in smart cities are helping to combat this issue, using real-time data to anticipate and react to different issues, from leaks, to theft, to water quality incidents. Improving water quality has a knock-on effect on public health, and enabling cities to react quicker to incidents reduces costly wastage.
Culturally, another big issue being tackled in smart cities is safety. Governments now have technology at their fingertips to use predictive crime analytics and video management systems to target crime hot spots. This gives the authorities more resources to predict and prevent crimes, ultimately driving down the crime rate and improve the overall safety of their cities.
The future success of urban living in India depends on making its cities ‘smart,’ and we are at a perfect inflection point for realising this vision on a huge scale, but it still needs significant investment.
The government’s smart city initiative is a substantial step in the right direction, but the adoption of smart cities is a gradual process, and if the government wants it to be in full, optimised operation by 2025, it will come with a hefty price tag. According to Deloitte, Modi’s government will need an estimated $150 billion in order to realise its vision – and $120 billion of this investment must come from the private sector. In order to take its place as a country of the 21st Century, the government must court the private sector, and more investment must be made in the technologies that will enable the level of innovation required to transform India’s cities at the pace that its citizens need.
Read one of our previous blogs on smart city solutions.