Smart Cities Improve Lives

Currently, 31% of India’s population lives in cities; these cities also generate 63% of the nation’s economic activity. These numbers are rapidly increasing, with almost half of India’s population projected to live in its cities by 2030. Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities to improve quality of life for residents today and in the future.

Smart Cities focus on the most pressing needs and on the greatest opportunities through careful planning

The Smart Cities Mission is a bold new initiative by the Government of India to drive economic growth and improve the quality of life of people by enabling local development and harnessing technology as a means to create smart outcomes for citizens.

Read the full Ministry of Urban Development Guidelines here.



Good ideas come in many shapes and sizes, and are designed to improve quality of life. They may involve technology, institutional or managerial reforms, and the involvement of citizens. The choice of solution is only smart if it is right-sized to the challenge it aims to address; bigger isn’t necessarily better. Here are some of the best examples from India and around the world.

  • Bangkok: Improving neighborhoods through citizen-led planning

    In the early 2000s, many of Thailand’s poorest citizens were living in slums that lacked basic infrastructure and services. The Central and local government called on citizens and communities to co-generated solutions, improving thousands of households in cities across the country.

  • Barcelona: Promoting solar energy to increase sustainability

    Barcelona was heavily dependent on costly and environmentally damaging fossil fuels with emitted many pollutants. The city government of Barcelona issued a Solar Thermal Ordinance, which reduced energy consumption and benefited the environment.

  • Curitiba: Increasing recycling through citizen incentives

    In the early 1990s, Curitiba lacked the capacity for effective trash collection, leaving piles of garbage on the streets. The city pioneered a series of environmental protection efforts that engaged the majority of its households and diverted thousands of tons of waste from ending up in landfills.

  • DongCheng: Local government addresses complaints with mobile technology

    Citizens’ complaints in DongCheng District often took a long time to address. DongCheng District implemented a pilot program using GIS and GPS technologies that break the city into smaller zones and track all complaints within these zones, a solution that has been replicated in multiple Chinese municipalities.

  • Hangzhou: Bike sharing to improve public mobility

    Traffic congestion in Hangzhou made public mobility a challenge. To address it, the city created a robust bike sharing program that includes 66,000 bicycles and 2700 sharing stations.

  • Hubli: Predicting water supply through mobile technology

    To help citizens plan better, Hubli partnered with a civic startup to develop an system that would alert residents 30 minutes in advance that water was about to be released for their neighborhood.

  • Hyderabad: Soliciting citizen feedback to improve service delivery

    To better address citizen complaints, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) created a robust system that allows citizens to access nearby complaint centers or report grievances using convenient technologies.

  • Istanbul: Pedestrianizing streets to improve public mobility

    Istanbul's car-dominated roads were dangerous for pedestrians and damaging to the city’s air quality. The city supported a group of stakeholders to push forward a pedestrianization project that increased public mobility and improved air quality.

  • London: Automating congestion pricing

    In the late 1990s, London suffered from some of the worst traffic in the U.K. In 2003, in order to decrease congestion in Central London, the city levied a surcharge on single-occupancy vehicles.

  • Los Angeles: Retrofitting buildings to facilitate private investment

    In downtown Los Angeles many office buildings were left empty and unused. Los Angeles adopted an Adaptive Reuse Program to jumpstart private investment into the city’s downtown.

  • Madhya Pradesh: Leveraging technology to improve public service delivery

    Citizens were expected to show up at government departments in person to access public services, making it time intensive and cumbersome to get help or information. To better accommodate citizens’ needs, Madhya Pradesh created “MPOnline,” a portal that provides access to more than 275 services related to education, employment, government information, and more.

  • Mumbai: Bringing sanitation solutions to urban slums

    Citizens' limited access to toilets greatly contribute to toxic bacteria in the air and water. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) and community-based agencies partnered up to install hundreds of modern and technological “toilet blocks” to improve public health.

  • Nagpur: Promoting energy management practices to improve water efficiency

    After a 2005 audit recorded high water losses, the Nagpur Municipal Corporation initiated a study to assess how to save on energy costs and decrease operational costs. Implementing the study’s recommendations helped Nagpur reduce energy consumption, improve pumping efficiency, and save crores of rupees in costs.

  • New York: Transforming streets to increase mobility and public safety

    Between 2001 and 2009, nearly 4,000 pedestrians were killed by motorists on New York City streets. Using smart data modelling and analysis, New York City’s Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) transformed the busiest roads into safe public spaces for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Pallavaram: Encouraging users to finance a sewerage system

    Pallavaram was growing rapidly, but it lacked a sewerage system. In 2005, the municipality worked with the state government to implement a 49-crore sewerage system and the municipality was able to recover 100% of the annual operations and maintenance costs through connection deposits and usage charges.

  • Porto Alegre: Improving city life through participatory budgeting

    Many of Porto Alegre’s poorer residents felt they had little influence over policies in their neighborhoods. The city of Porto Alegre encouraged citizens to participate in the budgeting decisions of the city, resulting in more schools, decreased poverty levels, and reduced corruption.

  • Rajkot: Increasing transparency to improve transportation service

    When a rickshaw driver was both rude to him and overcharged him for his trip, an entrepreneur in Rajkot sprung into action. G-Auto was developed to ensure better customer and driver experiences.

  • Surat: Upgrading sanitation standards to improve public health

    In 1994, Surat suffered an outbreak of bubonic plague, claiming 56 lives. The Surat local authority enacted strict hygiene and sanitation standards, making it one of India's cleanest cities today.

  • Visakhapatnam: Reforming property tax laws to boost municipal revenues

    Like other municipalities in India, the Greater Visakhapatnam municipality needed an efficient system for assessing and collecting property taxes. In order to boost property tax collection, the municipality introduced new collection practices and within a few years, Visakhapatnam had reached 100% coverage and a high 85% tax collection efficiency.