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A splintered ‘nerve centre’ (the case of urban governance)

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    4th May, 2022

Context

According to a recent update, Integrated Command and Control Centers, an integral component of the Smart Cities Mission, have been established in 80 cities, while the remaining 20 would be completed by August 15 this year.

Background

What are the Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs)?

  • The Smart Cities Mission includes setting up ICCCs for each such city as a vital step. These ICCCs are designed to enable authorities to monitor the status of various amenities in real time.
  • The ICCC acts as nerve centre for operations management of a Smart City.
  • It processes a complex and large pool of data sets at an aggregated level and uses it to provide solutions to municipal problems faced by India’s cities.
  • Various amenities provided to the residents of Smart Cities can be monitored using the ICCC by the authorities.
  • Projects under the ICCCs have been executed with the view of applying selected Smart Solutions to the existing city-wide infrastructure.
  • Controlling criminal activities: The ICCC is also linked to Crime and Criminal Tracking Networks and Systems (CCTNS) which would help in controlling and preventing the occurrence of criminal activities in the vicinity of urban India.
  • Smart Services: The ICCC is the nodal point of availability of all online data and information relating to smart services included in a smart city, such as like LED street lighting, CCTV surveillance cameras, air quality sensors, smart parking system, WiFi, electricity and water supply and billing, GIS, e-hospitals, property tax management, estate management, engineering systems, asset management systems, and other services.
  • During the pandemic, ICCC also operated as COVID-19 management centres.
  • These ICCCs are spread across various states that have been developing Smart Cities, with states such as Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat leading in terms of the total number of ICCCs set up.

What is Smart Cities Mission?

  • Launched: June 25, 2015
  • Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting programme launched by the Government of India to develop smart cities and make them citizen friendly and sustainable.
  • The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implementing the mission in collaboration with state governments; this is expected to complete between 2019 and 2023.
  • Key focus areas of the scheme include construction of walkways, pedestrian crossings, cycling tracks, efficient waste-management systems, integrated traffic management and assessment

What are the pillars on which ICCC is based?

  • ICCC is based on five pillars and following are the same:
  • Bandwidth
  • The sensors and edge devices which record and generate real-time data
  • Various analytics which are software that draw on data captured by end devices to generate “intelligence”
  • Data storage
  • The ICCC software which as described by Ministry of housing and urban affairs as, “a system of systems” — the anchor for all other application specific components and has been described as the “brain and nervous system” of the city.

How will ICCC help in improvement of city administration?

  • Corrective measures: It identifies certain data and analyses it for the administration that can then take the corrective steps.
  • Effectivity: It enhances safety and security, improves efficiency of municipal services and promotes better quality of life for residents.
  • Better understanding: ICCC uses its data to understand trends and patterns and forecasts an event or incident for the citizens and the government. 
  • Support system: It acts as a support engine to emergency response system by providing an interface to coordinate among multiple departments such as the police, traffic police, fire, ambulance, hospital etc., in case of an emergency. This provides alerts and predict issues enabling timely decision and action support.
  • Continuous monitoring: A unique feature of the solution is real time data visualisation, which helps in the continuous monitoring of various critical parameters across the city. 
  • Better ideas: Central to the promise of ICCC is the idea of ‘predictive modelling’ which uses data to generate inputs on just how the city is but also how it can be. 
    • It could predict future real estate hot spots and could predict all accident prone spots in the city. It could also predict the bus routes prone to crowding. 

Does the existence of ICCC interfere with the functions of Urban Local Bodies?

  • The ICCC project is being executed under the aegis of the Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) constituted under the Companies Act, 2013, in the selected cities. Projects of the SPV that overlap with core ULB areas have been a source of tension between the two, one that the cities are still learning to resolve.
  • Unless the core staff of ULB working across departments such as health, town planning, water supply, etc., adopt the ICCC systems, it risks being a splintered “nerve centre”.
  • There is the risk of permanent underutilisation of the system. With poor integration with ULB services, and not just software integration but also in terms of workflows and SOPs, the functional capability may continue to be titled towards video surveillance.
  • The sizeable investments required create contradictions in some cities which are otherwise struggling for funds to upgrade their basic infrastructure and services. One of the key questions to gauge the success of ICCC in future, maybe to ask, if cities are choosing to build and sustain these systems out of their own revenue or untied devolution funds. If not, ICCCs may struggle to outlive the exhaustion of mission grants.
  • Despite the efforts to keep procurement vendor-agnostic, some segments of ICCC are still dominated by select industry players who may dictate terms to the city or engage in arm-twisting for payments.

Practice Questions

Q1. In the context of Smart Cities Mission, what are Integrated Command and Control Centres (ICCCs)? Critically examine their role as a nerve centre for the management of the cities?

Q2. Smart Cities are envisaged as the incubators of the New Urban India. In context of this statement, evaluate the outcomes of Smart cities mission. Also, suggest what more needs to be done to transform India’s urban scenario.

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