Digital Platforms to enable Co Creation and Whole of Government (WoG) Experience for Citizens using Disruptive Technologies

Forum topic
Shared Services DIgital Platforms (SSP) for Smart Cities

Digital Platforms to enable Co Creation and Whole of Government (WoG) Experience for Citizens using Disruptive Technologies

The use of state of the art Digital Platforms that leverage the innovation potential of new media and ICT technologies like IOT, Big Data Analytics, Mobile and Social Media to provide context aware and location-based services to its residents are proving to be game changers in Smart City developments globally. Urban planners and policy makers are increasingly understanding the need to leverage green technologies and digital platforms for provision of city services to achieve higher efficiency while meeting the goals of sustainable development. Doing so is expected to lead to a “smart” city, a city that:

  1. Achieves high efficiency of existing and new physical infrastructure using digital technologies such as IOT, big data analytics and Artificial Intelligence (AI),
  2. Ensures citizen-centered service provision through social network and citizen participation systems that give a voice to the people and allow the government to act upon their request or respond in real-time to their concerns
  3. Fosters continuous innovation through various intelligent systems that collect real-time data, learn, anticipate and proactively provide adaptive knowledge-driven solutions.

Challenges for smart cities

This convergence of Digital Technologies and urban planning in Smart cities creates new challenges for cities and governments in charge of urban development. As Digital Platforms become central to urban planning and city development, it is becoming increasingly difficult for policy makers without proper training and knowledge in ICTs, to develop sound smart cities policies and monitor their implementations.

The smart city missions in developing countries call for sustained knowledge sharing, knowledge management and capacity building activities ensure that the practitioners are able to leverage from the best practices and global trends in the domain. As most of the selected smart cities begin to deploy digital platforms for integrated command and control centres, there is an urgent need to partner with industry players to bring global best practices in the domain by deploying POCs and prototypes of good practice platforms used globally to demonstrate their suitability for Indian needs.

As the selected smart cities of India start working on deployment of ICT solutions for Pan City component as well as Area Based Development initiatives, it is being witnessed that most of these solutions are proprietary vertical solutions aimed at serving individual domains (ITS, waste management, smart street lighting, mobility, traffic management etc.) These solutions, though useful in serving domain specific purposes, work as vertical silos. As government of India has guided each of the cities to have an integrated centralised Command and Control centre, it will become increasingly cumbersome and difficult to ensure data exchange among these disparate vertical solutions. This will not only defeat the purpose of centralised command and control centre for evidence based and collaborative production of citizen services by multiple agencies, but also result in missing a huge opportunity in creating development of new economy companies that could result in economic development of cities and the country. Additionally, owing to non-availability of seamless data in a common repository from multiple agencies, the development of a holistic administration for smart cities will be difficult. The approach also has a huge risks of city agencies getting vendor locked, which can severely impact the development of smart cities while adopting innovative new technologies and tools that might become available in future.

The World Bank Digital Development team therefore recommends that for successful implementation of digital solutions, smart city practitioners in India need to do away with the approach of getting solutions developed for vertical silos and integrate all the vertical systems into a horizontal Shared Services Platform (SSP) to ensure integrated city management and service delivery. Numerous studies have demonstrated beyond doubt that in the era of IOT, AI, Big Data Analytics and Digital platforms, development of fragmented applications for each of the verticals is an obsolete practice. The future is based on intelligence shared by all the agents in the ecosystem, whereby the city platform behaves as a facilitator of advanced governance systems and as hub for an innovative ecosystem in which companies, particularly start-ups and SMEs can faster materialize their ideas into applications/services, reach the market and make business.

Study of good practices by top 20 smart cities of the world have shown that it will be counterproductive if multiple agencies in the cities developed their digital solutions in isolation without collaborating with each other. This will not only increase the investment by many folds, but also result in development of legacy systems that will not be interoperable and may need to be discarded in the long run resulting in irrevocable losses to the city administrations. It is therefore imperative for the cities to adopt common standards and information models so that Indian cities can transform into smart cities with minimum investment by merging forces to build an ecosystem where different agencies in the city can connect and collaborate. This will also enable creation of interoperable and portable solutions that can be adapted and replicated for the needs of each of selected smart cities and development of a sustainable Digital Single Market for Smart Cities on the lines of successful projects like Aadhar and Government e-Marketplace (GeM). The World Bank DD team, based upon discussions with smart city practitioners and experts across multiple countries that lead in Smart city domain, recommends development of Shared Services Platform (SSP) for Smart Cities which does not merely focus on technology aspects, but strives to create a vibrant community of investors and entrepreneurs, application developers, data providers and system integrators servicing the needs of Indian smart cities in a collaborative manner across shared set of standards. Indian Smart City SPVs, by leveraging the collaborative potential of Shared Services Platform, will be able to collate data from multiple agencies and facilitate app developers that are part of shared services platform ecosystem to convert the available data into G2C, G2B and G2G services.

The WB team under KGGTF project is now implementing a prototype of Shared Services Platform (SSP) or Integrated Command and Control Centre (ICCC) in select cities as a proof of concept. This will be based upon Open Source and Open Standards based system already implemented in more than 117 cities globally. Interested cities and industry players who wish to partner with the demonstration initiative are welcome to get in touch with WB team.

The participants of the forum are requested to share their views on prevalent good practices. the features such a platform should have and details of such platforms available globally.