In India, 400 million people, out of a total population of 1,300 million, live in cities. Experts expect this country to become the most populated in the world in a few years’ time, outgrowing China. There are three cities and their metropolitan areas in India, Delhi, Mumbai (Bombay to Westerners) and Bangalore that are among the 15 most populous cities in the world. The process of urbanization is gathering pace in the sub-continent, so new steps need to be taken. The United Nations have forecast that 500 million Indians will become new residents of super-populated cities in the new 30 years.
It is no accident that the Indian government is backing the idea of smart cities, with the commitment to helping to transform a hundred of these across the country to make them more sustainable and habitable. Urban planning, the transports and environment (water, waste, contamination) are among the main concerns of local, regional and federal authorities. Then there are social issues.
This is the context in which the city of Jaipur, with 3.5 million inhabitants (the size of the metropolitan area of Barcelona, for comparison) is hosting India’s first Smart City Expo Congress from 26 to 28 September in collaboration with Fira de Barcelona and local partners, with the support of Jaipur City Council, the government of the state of Rajasthan and the Indian government.
Its rich cultural and architectural heritage has made Jaipur an important tourism destination, and the Jaipur Development Authority. has enabled it to advance towards adopting smart city proposals. Hosting this event is an opportunity for international positioning as one of the capitals with smart city aspirations, promoting innovation and technology as drivers of a smarter society in which business and city governments work together to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
The exhibition and convention centre of Jaipur expects to receive 6000 professional visitors from over a hundred cities over three days, and a similar number of speakers and exhibitors. They will all focus on what is increasingly obvious: the need to use technological tools and strategies to improve city life, environmental quality, combat poverty, promote equality, education, women’s rights, community development, increase safety and stimulate people’s talents and skills.
Smart cities represent a way for India to tackle some of its great contradictions: the difference between country and city, the lack of good public services, the presence of 300 million illiterate people in a provider of international services thanks to its global trade in specialist software, financial services and computer expertise. Many of the population possess excellent qualifications, speak fluent English and yet earn modest salaries. Real contradictions.