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India's cities drive economic growth, but fail to provide a satisfactory quality of life to most of their residents. The urban middle-classes have seen their incomes grow, but contend with erratic water and power and hazardous levels of pollution. Roads are congested and unsafe and parks and public spaces are few. India now has the world’s highest number of traffic fatalities, overwhelmingly pedestrians and cyclists. Urban poverty levels are rising even as rural poverty declines, and inequality is manifestly stark in India’s major cities. In such a context, the appeal of a grand plan to change the face of Indian urbanization by building twenty-first-century cities is clear. smart cities use digital technology to make urban systems more efficient, cost-effective and environmentally sustainable. Sensors embedded in buildings and infrastructure networks can help cities incorporate renewable energy such as solar power, or save energy by turning streetlights on only when a road is in use. Sensors, smart cards and digital cameras feed real-time data into integrated management systems, and better data and analytic technologies can inform decision-making and improve urban management. The smart city infrastructures and management systems used in the new cities in Gujarat, provided by global firms like IBM, Cisco and Bechtel, are expensive. In the long term, proponents argue, efficiency gains and energy savings make them well worth the investment. In most cases, it is simpler and cheaper to build such cities anew than to upgrade older settlements.
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