Policy makers and experts from BRICS countries today emphasised the need to focus more on bringing people in urban areas together by ending social exclusion while developing smart cities using technology only as a tool. Participating in a Plenary Session on ‘BRICS Smart Cities conclave in Visakhapatnam,Andhra Pradesh’, they stressed that adoption of technology can’t be the ultimate goal of smart city development and it should be used as a tool to meet the aspirations of the people.
Expressing concern over growing social exclusion in cities, Prof. D Alvaro de Oliveira, representing Brazil stressed the need to give primacy to the human aspect of smart city development. Expressing concern over rising isolation of different social groups in urban areas, smart cities should aim at integrating people. He cited the examples of initiatives taken in Brazil to end social conflicts by creating integrated neighbourhoods in Brazil’s capital Rio de Janiero and Portugese city of Lisbon. He also stressed on using technology only as a tool and for bringing social and behavioural transformation.
Prof. Oliveira suggested setting up a ‘BRICS Human Smart Cities Institute’ to mount collective efforts for socially and economically integrated urban development in the context of growing emphasis on smart city development.
Prof. Pradipta Banerjee, Director, IIT, Roorkie also noted that smart city development is not all about technology but it is about meeting the needs of people. He said that urban development approaches should address trust deficit between the people and governance institutions. He favoured development of ‘connected smart city regions rather than smart cities including improvement in quality of rural areas’.
South Africa’s Philip Harrison cautioned BRICS nations to ensure that urban development with focus on smart cities should not further increase existing inequalities in urban areas and governance should not be allowed to become more technocratic and less responsive.
Shri Karikal Valaven, Principle Secretary (Urban Development), Government of Andhra Pradesh who chaired the session said that under the Smart City Mission of Government of India, said that well considered efforts are being to integrate physical, digital and human systems to enable economically productive, inclusive and prosperous urban areas. He stressed that technology is being used to serve the objective of improving governance and enhancing the efficiency of use of urban infrastructure.
Representative of China, Mr.Lie Tie said that given huge mobile and internet penetration in his country, the government is making ‘internet’ the corner stone of enhancing the efficacy of municipal governance and employment generation.
Georgy Antsev of Russia gave an account of the technology based initiatives being taken in Russia to effectively respond to the consequences of natural disasters to provide immediate relief to the people in quick time. Stating that about 80% of the world’s population live along the coast, he said that efforts are in progress to make water vessels that can travel at a speed of over 500 km per hour to provide relief to disaster victims.
During a discussion on ‘Financing Urban Infrastructure’, the experts referred to the strong correlation between inequality in access to infrastructure and inequality in incomes in urban areas. They stressed on the need to ensure effective urban governance supported by a strong political leadership and vision to enable cities attract huge investments required for building infrastructure.
The participants stressed on the need to make urban local bodies self-reliant through enhanced resource streams including issuing of Municipal Bonds for which cities have to become creditworthy. They expressed concern over investments in urban infrastructure not resulting in adequate returns to ensure repayment and called for effective measures in this regars.
It was noted that in South Africa, the leading 8 metropolitan cities mobilise 45% of required finances through Municipal Bonds.
Emphasising the need for effective municipal governance, representatives of member countries urged the New Development Bank set up by BRICS to support development of governance institutions.
Shri Prakash Gaur, CEO of Andhra Pradesh Urban Infrastructure and Asset Management Limited said that a per capita investment of Rs.10,000 per year in urban areas is required in the State to improve infrastructure and an investment of Rs.53,000 cr is required over the next four years.