Datasmart Cities: Empowering Cities through data

State of the Global Climate 2021


The Smart Cities Mission was among the first flagship programmes announced in 2014-15. Data collection, use, and platforms are central to the Mission. This report, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, charts out the roadmap for DataSmart cities, as it calls them. The ‘Datasmart Cities: Empowering Cities through data’ is a strategy document that “lays down the basic premise, foundational pillars and a suggested roadmap for cities to improve their readiness for intelligent use of data in addressing complex urban challenges”. 

This strategy envisions three foundational pillars: People, processes, and platforms to “create an open data culture” in these cities, greater data exchange and innovation, eventually leading to “a thriving data marketplace as a sustainable model for smart city solutions for businesses”. The DataSmart Cities concept uses  the ‘city-as-a-platform’ idea and identifies four stakeholders in the quadruple-helix model — government, citizens, academia, and industry — to make cities data-smart. It speaks of city governments fostering  ‘digital leadership’ and calls for building an ecosystem supported by a robust system of data acting as its backbone.

While the document speaks of implementing the strategy through the urban local bodies in the 100 Smart Cities chosen, it also refers to “the guiding principles and architectural blueprint of the National Urban Innovation Stack” proposed by the ministry and National Institute of Urban Affairs to “guide cities”. There are chapters on digital infrastructure in these cities, urban transformation through data, and discussions on Data Maturity Assessment Framework. While the document is useful to those in urban data businesses, it does not strategise on how data can be used — if at all — to address some of the chronic urban issues in India or about the security and accountability systems envisioned for vast amounts of data collected.