Indo-US Technology Summit: Linking earth sciences to build smarter cities

Indo-US Technology Summit: Linking earth sciences to build smarter cities

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The biggest ever bilateral technology summit between India and the United States of America witnessed a delegation of around 100 US government officials participating in panel discussions and deliberating over technological cooperation between the two countries.

David Miller, NASA Chief Technologist, who was part of one such session, explained that US-India collaboration in science, such as remote sensing data, could be strengthened; the emphasis on the use of smaller space craft and satellite constellations is creating new business opportunities around the world.

Echoing Miller’s views, John McCaslin, Minister Counsellor for Commercial Affairs, US Foreign Commercial Service, said that US would be playing a leading role in supporting sustainable infrastructure development in India. He revealed Ajmer, Allahabad and Vizag were the three cities in which US companies would provide expertise and support to develop them as smart cities.

Need for “smart” citizenry

Clarifying that smart cities is no more a concept that can be ignored, Dr. Jonathan Margolis, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES), US Department of State, said, “One million people per week are moving to cities – which means that governments and societies around the world will have to provide water, food, energy, sanitation, transport, health, and have a proper disaster management strategy for the urban population.”

Confessing that the challenges of developing smart cities in India is overwhelming, Margolis added that, while technology is certainly the cornerstone of making cities sustainable, it cannot be accomplished without “smart” people. “Smart cities are also about smart citizenry,” he said.

Building the case for India–US collaboration in technology and outlining the untapped potential in the field of big data analytics, Karuna Gopal, President, Foundation for Futuristic Cities, said that India is focused on using technology to make cities sustainable. Pitching the opportunity to collaborate as a win-win situation for both countries, she stressed that India could both offer talent and be a testing ground for big data analytics, while the US could offer learning and development in the context of homeland security especially through its crowdsourcing protocol.

Dr. Hendrick Tolman, Acting Director, National Weather Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) called for resilient, adaptable and integrated institutions in smart cities to minimise the time lag between data analysis and actionable decision-making. He recalled how during Hurricane Katrina climatic information was made available in advance but local officials took 36-48 hours before the actual evacuation of the city began.

Sujaya Rathi, Principal Research Scientist, Center for Study of Science, technology and Policy (CSTEP) confessed that spatial planning is highly neglected domain in India. She suggested that whenever, wherever smart cities are being built their master plans and data must be stored somewhere so that one can learn from best practices. She added that although she has been part of several master plan drafting sessions, which included the use of GIS, land information systems, and other geospatial technologies, more often than not the data collected is shelved and kept away from public.

Source: Our Correspondent