Transparency key component of a smart city: NIUA director

Information is the key to make cities smart

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Puja Bhattacharjee | August 29, 2014



Housing is a challenge for India and the key ingredient to provide access to housing in different brackets is information, says Jagan Shah, director, National Institute of Urban Affairs (NIUA). Shah, most likely to be tasked with executing PM Narendra Modi’s ambitious 100 smart cities project, spoke to Governance Now about the challenges before the rapidly urbanising India.

What do you think is the biggest problem that plagues Indian cities?

The market is controlled by brokers at present. They hold and monopolise information and convey it as a service to earn commissions. A smart city should be able to provide service like a value-added municipal service where you can select an accommodation on the basis of detailed data about the property and how it has performed.

What do you mean by value-added service? Pl elaborate.

In the existing system, information critical to purchase and renting of a property lies with different departments of the government -- one department registers property, another collects taxes from it, a third department is issuing power meters, and a fourth department is collecting water charges. These four sets of data don’t speak to each other.

So, what is the solution?

The biggest problem of rental accommodation is lack of knowledge about where it is available and whether the buyer can access it in the bracket in which he can afford. Many agents and websites broker that information but still there is lack of transparency as they do not connect you to the flat owner. Smart cities are going to get rid of a lot of brokering activities as, technology will become the mediator.

We have a huge stock of rental housing in this country, which is not being let out because of anxiety. People are worried about squatters. This problem should not exist. A sufficiently responsive system does not allow that to happen.

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