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CEPT University to launch India's first 'Smart City' course

CEPT is India's premier architecture, planning and design institute

Premal Balan Ahmedabad
With the Narendra Modi government proposing 100 ‘Smart Cities’ across India in the recently announced union budget for 2014-15, Gujarat-based CEPT University has come up with a course on ‘Smart Cities’ to understand the concept, global scenario and its practical application. This will probably be the first academic course on ‘Smart Cities’ in India. CEPT University is India’s premier architecture, planning and design institute.

The course will initially be offered to the masters degree level students of architecture, planning, technology and management students of CEPT University as an elective. Based on the response Faculty of Planning, which has initiated the course, plans to offer it to a larger audience like government officials involved in city planning.

“In view of recent government announcement of ‘100 Smart Cities’ in the union budget and allocation of Rs 7,600 crore there is a great excitement amongst the states and cities all over the country to take advantage. However, the general understanding of ‘what is a Smart City?’ is not very known, nor there exists any trained man power or expertise who could guide and handhold such development or at least make a road map,” said faculty for the Smart City court Saswat Bandyopadyay.

It is in this background that the course has been designed and conceptualised. The course is scheduled to be launched from July 25. “The course announcement is an instant hit among the university students, wherein more than 120 students applied for this course for a class capacity of 40,” Bandyopadyay added.

He, however, was of the opinion that there was still lack of clarity with regard to smart cities and its elements relevant in India. There is need for a guideline as to what qualifies as a smart city, he further added.

Sejal Patel another faculty for the course said that the four-month long course will have a participative and case-study driven approach where in the students will be given idea about the global discourse on Smart Cities and its concept. “Following this there will be discussion on the policies of the Indian government with regard to Smart Cities and analysis of the budget allocations for the same,” Patel explained. Based on the inputs from all the experts and faculty, the students will take their position with regard to Smart Cities and develop their own concept for the same, Patel added.

The elective course will attempt to expose the course participants to global and regional discourses, policies and practices of ‘Smart Urbanism’ and ‘Cities’ across regions including the issues of inclusiveness, feasibility and sustainability. The course will be delivered through a mix of interactive class room sessions, review of case studies, short talks and movies and participatory exploration.

The course will also have visiting faculty from UK and European Union. For example, Ian Mell from University of Liverpool, UK, and Francesca Sartorio along with Andrew Flynn from Cardiff University, UK, will help students in understanding the concepts, discourses and practices of ‘Smart Cities’ across the globe.

According to Sactorio, world was urbanising faster than predicted and with rapidly changing global order, cities and towns, across the globe are continuously trying to reinvent themselves so as to remain efficient, competitive and sustainable. “In this context, the concept of ‘Smart Cities’ providing solutions for efficient and sustainable solutions, has evolved as one of the most popular themes of urban policy discourse, researches and projects across the global regions,” she added.

“The idea of smart cities originated in the US with the concept of using technology to improve the standard of living of people,” Sactorio said. She was of the view that concept of smart cities was more among the academia rather than the developers and the government. Agreeing with Sactoria, another visiting faculty for the course Ian Mell from University of Liverpool said that since the economic returns are uncertain for the developers, they are not pushing for the concept. “One thing is clear that the smart cities will be heavily driven by information communication technology (ICT) and IT companies as technology will be a must for delivery, management and maintenance of the smart cities,” Mell added.

Andrew Flynn from Cardiff University, also a visiting faculty for the course, was interested in what criteria the Indian government would come up for the smart cities. “How we define it (smart cities) will be very important as in a country like India the cities will be based on climatic conditions, culture, ethos and needs of the people of every region. Hence the geographical and social conditions are very important when planning a smart city in India,” Flynn said. He believes that there was need to create awareness among people on the benefits of smart cities.

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First Published: Jul 23 2014 | 8:59 PM IST

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