Cities are increasingly moving to digitise more and more of their operations, from smart street lighting and parking to traffic lights.
What was once a visionary notion is now the new normal: technology is really as essential as core infrastructure such as water, gas, and electricity. The government’s vision of smart cities is to drive urban transformation to enable better living for citizens and drive economic growth. According to Dinesh Malkani, president, Cisco India & SAARC, the future of smart cities will involve cities and communities digitising themselves by focusing on a combination of economically, socially or environmental sustainability. “We firmly believe that India has the potential to lead in the new era of digitisation. Digitising India is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” he tells Sudhir Chowdhary in a recent interaction. Excepts:
How do you see digitisation impacting governance and citizen services?
Innovation is at the heart of the digital era and the digital disruption is transforming every industry, from healthcare to education, banking and financial institutions and more. Our government leaders have made it clear that broadband highways are as important as national highways. Digital infrastructure is being adopted five times faster than electricity and telephony. A digitised nation will help India leap-frog and be at the forefront of innovation and job creation. Today we can buy a book, plan a vacation, or choose a movie from any number of devices and from any location. By embracing digital business transformation, traditional banks are providing the kinds of mobile, personalised, and convenient services that customers are used to receiving elsewhere. Cisco has helped enable SBI InTouch which offers automated kiosks that deliver instant banking services through high definition video conferencing. Cisco is innovating with the government across cities to deliver governance and services to citizens digitally.
What do you see the role of smart cities in the digitisation of India?
What was once a visionary notion is now the new normal: technology is as essential as core infrastructure such as water, gas, and electricity. The government’s vision of smart cities is to drive urban transformation to enable better living for citizens and drive economic growth. Cisco’s Bengaluru campus is designed as a campus-as-a-city for thousands of Cisco employees to work and is spectacular showcase of what the digitisation of a country means for the future of work, education, healthcare and the digital delivery of citizen services.
At Cisco we believe that intelligent networks will enable digitally empowered citizens through the availability of government services in real time, online and on mobile platforms. Services such as healthcare, citizen services, retail or banking can be delivered through a superior, on demand video collaboration experience. Cities, companies and educational institutions can use connected learning solutions to improve access to education beyond local resources.
Government has announced 98 new smart cities in India. Where does Cisco see itself in this broad strategy in India?
In India the future of smart cities will involve cities and communities digitising themselves by focusing on a combination of economically, socially or environmental sustainability. We are working with the Jaipur Development Authority to set up digital infrastructure to offer citizens amenities and help manage the city with greater efficiency and effectiveness. We have deployed a smart physical safety and surveillance system in Navi Mumbai and a remote FIR kiosk in association with the Bengaluru City Police. We have created a connected learning experience at BITS Pilani by connecting campuses in Pilani, Dubai, Goa and Hyderabad and allowing global experts and guest lectures across campuses. Through 198 Cisco Network academies nationwide an approximately 100,000 Indian students have been trained since its inception. We will continue to work with cities as they look to digitise their operations such as traffic management or smart street lighting and citizen services such as healthcare and education.
Cisco executive chairman John Chambers has commented that India will be an example for the world in digitisation. How do you see the progress of digital India/smart cities?
We firmly believe that India has the potential to lead in the new era of digitisation. Digitising India is a ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity for our cities, companies and citizens to be a part of India’s journey to complete digitisation and we are thrilled to see that hundreds of enterprises and government departments have already embarked on the journey. We believe innovation is at the heart of the digital era and are working with the industry and government to enable digitisation and help drive economic growth and improve the standard of living for everyone. For example, we have worked with Mahindra and Mahindra, on the Chakan facility north of Pune in Maharashtra, to deploy a Connected Factory of the future. Through the Prime Minister’s Digital India vision, the Internet of Everything will enable the creation of large-scale digital infrastructure, digitally-enabled government services and increased digital
literacy among our citizens.
What are the pilot projects Cisco is working on and what are your learnings from it?
Cities are increasingly moving to digitise more and more of their operations, from smart street lighting and parking to traffic lights. Our technology and solutions for smart cities have been implemented around the world helping offer better services, foster innovation and generate more jobs. In India we are working with cities and commmunities on creating new business models and delivering cloud-based services in skills, education, healthcare and public services.
In the ideal smart city, all aspects of the community are wired, including healthcare, homes, offices and entertainment venues. That will require a lot of innovations on—ground, are we ready for it?
The pace of technology change is accelerating. It took radio 38 years to attract 50 million listeners. TV took 13 years. Facebook took just one year, Twitter took 9 months while Angry Birds took 35 days. We are seeing the rapid convergence of mobile, social, data and cloud which is in turn enabling India to enter the digital era. The future of competition will be between cities and as someone observed, cities are the new laboratories of the 21st century.
Cities should encourage startups and local innovation that focus on solving urban challenges like traffic, healthcare, energy conservation, etc. by leveraging technology. With continued support and investment, from the government and industry, the flourishing startup ecosystem in the country has the potential to bring about many more opportunities for India to compete on the global stage. Cisco’s investments of $240 million in the startup ecosystem in India is to help catalyse and accelerate the potential of India’s startups.