Microsoft eyes big opportunity in smart city plan

Getting to be ‘smart’ is the new mojo of Indian cities after the Modi government declared the 100 smart cities drive and all the tech majors are trying to get a piece of the action. But, Microsoft, seems to be leading the race in India at least in intent.

By Anirban Ghosal

The company has already started delving into different projects in the country and aims to partner with the government in planning, building and maintaining sustainable and better cities of the future.

“India is an emerging market and our CityNext programme, launched in November 2013, can provide perfect solutions to the problems of growing cities in India,” said Stefan Sjöström, vice-president for the public sector, Asia at Microsoft.

Further explaining, Stefan said that pressure on resources of Indian cities are constantly increasing due to the growing population that migrates to it. “This reduces efficiency, increases cost and the way of life becomes difficult. CityNext can solve these problems as it has done in several cities like Barcelona and Buenos Aires,” Stefan added.

For instance, Barcelona has been working with Microsoft and its partners along with other tech majors to successfully harness cloud, data and apps to enhance administrative operations, improve interactions with citizens and make information transparent. Civic leaders and citizens of Buenos Aires are currently using a ‘City Dashboard’ system that consolidates data from multiple IT systems into a single interface to provide city decision-makers with insight into project progress and citizen needs.

When asked why Microsoft would be a better choice over other competitors, Stefan said that Microsoft brings to the table a multi-domain partner ecosystem, comprising of leading infrastructure and IT solutions providers, that can collaborate closely with the government to create the required solutions and skills.

“We are like a bridge or a platform that brings the two parties together—the ones in need of solution and the ones that need the solution,” Stefan said. He also elaborated saying that Microsoft’s CityNext programme has other advantages. While diplomacy may come in the way of sharing information for countries, the cities involved in Microsoft’s CityNext programme may choose to share info, experiences, solutions with each other without any hassle. But both parties need to agree on the same, he added.

Also, Microsoft doesn’t intend to only engage only with the Centre but also with other state governments. Leveraging CityNext framework, Microsoft and its partners are working with multiple state governments. One of these projects is with the Surat city police department and Surat Traffic Education Trust to address threats to citizen safety through the creation of a control centre for the monitoring, collation and analysis of surveillance inputs. Microsoft has also partnered with the government for solutions across states such as Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh for projects to enable efficiency in areas such as government administration and citizen services. When asked which state was surging ahead of the others to embed more technology to make life easy, Stefan said that Microsoft has received more positive responses from Gujarat than any other state.

Vikas Aggarwal, director of industry solutions & market development, government and health at Microsoft India, said that some of the key modern cities that the government is looking at developing are along the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, the Amritsar-Kolkata Industrial region, and the Chennai- Bengaluru Industrial Corridor. While he said that most of the projects are still on the board, the Centre has been trying to rally up support and build a proper framework to support the project. ”

Microsoft is closely working with the Centre to make the smart city projects a reality soon,” he said.

Microsoft also wants to clear any doubt about privacy concerns because in any smart city programme, a lot of data will be collected and hence privacy concerns are sure to arise. “We know that we are talking about a lot of data. Data about people and their ways of life, so we have maintained a high level of security in our programmes,” Stefan said.

Business Newsdigital IndiaMicrosoftMicrosoft IndiaMicrosoft Indian citiesModi governmentprojectsmart citiessmart citySmart city planstate governmentTechnology NewsVikas Aggarwal
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