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Growth, the ‘smart’ way 

A.K. Sabharwal

One of the key developments of the historic summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Barack Obama, during the latter’s three-day visit to India (as chief guest at the Republic Day parade), has been the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between India and the United States to develop Visakhapatnam into a ‘smart city’. Similarly two other cities are to be developed as Smart cities with help from US i.e. Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh and Ajmer in Rajasthan.
The MoU was signed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Secretary Mr IYR Krishna Rao and Mr Leocadia I. Zak, director of the US Trade and Development Agency on 25th January, the first day of Mr. Obama’s visit.
To be sure, the MoU to convert Visakhapatnam into ‘smart city’ is important for Vizag and Andhra Pradesh.
The money and technology that will be brought to Vizag as part of the ‘smart city’ initiative, will propel the port city into the small and prestigious league of cities around the world, which are interconnected or wired for the 21st century.
What does being a ‘smart city’ mean? The Smart Cities Council defines a ‘smart city’ as one ‘’ that has digital technology embedded across all city functions.’’
‘’A smart city gathers data from smart devices and sensors embedded in its roadways, power grids, buildings and other assets. It shares that data via a smart communications system that is typically a combination of wired and wireless. It then uses smart software to create valuable information and digitally enhanced services. Some of those services are used by the city itself. Examples include emergency response centers and city-wide control centers. Likewise, enhancements such as smart power grids and smart water grids improve efficiency and reliability while also giving customers detailed information to help them reduce their bills. And smart transportation uses the power of computers to optimize travel throughout the city,’’ says the council.
‘’Some of those services are delivered digitally via computer or smart phone. Examples include online permitting, online lookup of information such as buried cables, water mains, bus arrival times, traffic maps, crime reports, emergency warnings, taxi locations and much more,’’ the Redmond, Washington-based council said.
Under the agreement, USTDA will contribute funding for feasibility/pilot studies, and study tours workshops/trainings. It will also support consultancies and advisories for the development of Visakhapatnam into a smart city, according to an official press release of the Andhra Pradesh government.
The ‘smart city’ initiative is also expected to get support from other US government agencies like the US Department of Commerce and the US Exim Bank. The US Industry Organization has also shown interest in participating in the development of Visakhapatnam by providing infrastructure facilities like aviation and energy.
As Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister, Mr. N. Chandrababu Naidu, has said the government has made a good beginning with the signing of the MoU. In the near future, specific agreements will be worked out by the Andhra Pradesh government and the US agencies with active participation of the central government.
Historic visit
The visit of the US President to India, his second in 4 years, has helped in improving the relations between the two democracies. During his visit, India also moved ahead in operationalizing the US-India civilian nuclear deal, which had been signed some years ago. The civilian nuclear deal will enable American and other foreign companies to invest in setting up nuclear power plants in energy-deficient India. Mr. Obama has also committed aid of US dollars 4 billion to stimulate great trade between US and India. All in all, President Obama’s visit was a diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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