The Evolution of the Smart Cities Agenda in India

Journal article

Hoelscher, Kristian (2016) The Evolution of the Smart Cities Agenda in India, International Area Studies Review 19 (1): 28–44.

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With the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, urban-led economic growth in India was firmly framed around a vision of 'Smart Cities', an ambiguous concept which promotes the integration of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in cities to improve economic growth, quality of life, governance, mobility and sustainability. Given its current policy importance, this article examines how the Smart Cities agenda in India has emerged, what it has encompassed, and its potential for transformative urban development. Reviewing policy documents and statements in combination with selected key stakeholder interviews, this article traces the emergence of the Smart Cities discourse in India, suggesting that the vision and concept of the Smart City has shifted over time; and has been evoked in different ways to serve different purposes. Overall, the Smart Cities agenda in India appears to be characterised by a failure to conceptualise and develop an integrated set of policies, and while a clearer (yet contested) concept is emerging, the prospects for success are uncertain.

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