Chandigarh: A Connected City Proposal [Slides]
- February 12, 2019
Digital projects for a city interest me. Though I have not got a chance to work on a city governance technology project as yet, I often take examples of architecture in my product design talks and posts. This is because I see a lot of parallel in how architects approach their projects and how design teams plan and design products.
In October 2018, I saw an opportunity in an open contest by Times of India where they called for technology ideas to pitch, in Chandigarh. I thought of Chandigarh, as a connected city, and pitched for A Digitally Prepared Chandigarh – Connected, Sustainable, Future-Friendly. The first cut was good and I was invited to present to the jury, for the next round. As I had anticipated, it did not advance through the final cut because I could see that I was not pitching to the right people.
Here are the slides:
Sunil is a restauranteur in Chandigarh. For different use cases, he needs to interact with city governance, for seeking permissions for a new solar panel, visiting local electricity department, liaisoning with the labor department, and for his personal driving license, or his wedding registration, or to change of name in his Aadhar card.
Likewise, there is a teacher, Ram Prasad, a tourist from Germany, Jeanie, and many other citizens including artists, bankers, traders, retired, and those who are unemployed.
They are the heroes but they are struggling with something.
Citizens need to share their information – contact details, ID proof, and adjacent documents in 5+ different departments. For any new use case, they share the same information, in a different building, for a different file, to be stored in a different CPU.
The officers in 10+ departments save, process, tag, file, print, upload, share, archive, find, save, push, and file the same information of same people at the same time, in their respective buildings. They do not know that they are multiplying the liabilities, for themselves, and for the city administration.
One request for a change in Sunil’s name or in his restaurant address means that the change replicates at 10+ different locations, manually. With a lot of labor pain.
In governance, this is a huge process debt that grows as a result of technical debt.
And such a waste of time and bandwidth for all. Where is the context for all that stored information?
If Ram Prasad finds that he cannot apply for the transfer of property because there is an open petition filed in his name in a local court for the same assets, he goes to another department? Such a fragmented experience!
A tourist from Germany – Jeanie wants to see the Chandigarh museum, and she finds the following.
Ownership: There is no ownership. For weeks, and months? I wrote to the museum website owners and I tweeted too, I never heard back.
Our Today is Tolerable. Tomorrow?
For Sunil, Ram Prasad, and Jeanie, our today is tolerable.
Even if citizens lose so many hours in their government interactions, and it impacts their work, their mood, and their network, they do not protest because our today is tolerable.
Even if it indicates a zero base citizens-governance trust.
Why Care for Tomorrow?
Is Chandigarh’s digital mind prepared for a new stadium in the city, or for a new policy on energy, or for self-driving cars?
How will they stop the current websites from breaking down?
Which websites they will update?
Fun Fact: When I raised this example of a possible new stadium during my presentation, a gentleman murmured that they will publish another page for a new stadium.
Another page? They calendar still shows that they are in 1999. Wish them good luck for the 2K bug.
Bigger Challenge: Inclusion and Trust
The challenge is not only to enable VR and AR for shoppers in the city. The challenge is to enable access to technology for differently-abled, for divorcee and separated, for transgender and in live-ins, for egoists and for politicians, for millennials and for the retired, and for those in a corporate hierarchy and for unemployed.
Prepare for the privileged as well as for the marginalized.
Invest in a vision, for the right people in the right chairs. It certainly begins with the people.
For a digital, structured, and a connected inventory of:
Mobility: Strategic transit for goods and services, shared rides, walkways, safety, connected support for medical and police, scalable for unknown transit (driverless cars), pedestrian culture. (source, by Mckinsey)
Buildings: Data-driven and for context, personalized way-finding, alerts for medical conditions, building health notifications, and Jeanie trusts for easy access to emergency services and for language support
People: Privacy-policy-driven data, loosely coupled yet comprehensive.
The city is aware to answer Sunil’s requests or to answer Jeanie’s questions.
City responds timely, and for context.
A data-driven administration including policing, utilities, transport, healthcare, and lifestyle.
The city inspires trust, and the trust multiplies in the citizen’s network.
The city is mature and service-oriented.
Hero ‘s Journey
Efficient administration and trusted governance should, of course, boost the city’s economy. It adds to the quality of life, more tourism, a strengthened presence on the international map for connectivity and for trade, and so more work and business opportunities. More funds means better ability to invest in the cycle.
The city administration should remember that Chandigarh has been a model city in India for so many reasons.
The sheen has been going off lately because the chairs are strongly tied to the CPUs that are too heavy to move because of the technical debt. One of these should move – the chairs or the CPUs, let us see.
Why Vinish Garg?
I have studied many successful projects in digital city space, and I have closely followed their case studies and talked to their project leaders. I have listed a few references in my slides.
This awareness and my core business and technology skills help me to design a loosely-coupled model for the digital city project. If you are interested in a dialogue, write to me at vinishjg (at) gmail (dot) com, and we can discuss.