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Smart Cities Mission train officers in data-driven governance

In Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur, the officer envisioned a new traffic system that automates e-challans through violation sensors. At Tumakuru in Karnataka, it was a refashioning of buses to include GPS tracking and sensors connected to a mobile application. In Chhattisgarh’s Nava Raipur, the chosen problem was maintaining an uninterrupted water supply by monitoring hydraulic parameters in case of outages.

In each of the 100 Smart Cities across the country, the appointed City Data Officer (CDO) is currently undergoing a six-week training by the Centre’s Smart Cities Mission and Tata Trusts to reimagine how data and information can solve local issues. In the “Enabling Data Driven Decision Making in Urban Local Bodies” course, their chosen case studies showcase their city’s new technological objectives.

“The Ministry has developed a structured course specifically designed for training in data. Everyone has to deal with data. The kind of energy the City Data Officers are showing — the program has flourished. I am taking the course myself,” said Smart Cities Mission Joint Secretary and Director Kunal Kumar.

With the first batch of 35 CDOs graduated and certified, the next 65 officers began their training on Tuesday last week. In February 2019, each city nominated a CDO to lead the local data governance strategy. A third of the CDOs are either the Urban Local Body’s (ULB) head, such as municipal commissioner, or the Smart City Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) CEO. Thirty of them are holding additional charge while only five are full-time CDOs at the Smart City SPV.

While the majority do have IT-related professional experience, many have a background in urban planning and architecture, engineering, finance, or law.

“Many people have come into this role without studying the basics. While that’s a good thing because they can learn on the go, this course helps put a structure in their own mind. Their disciplines help them understand their municipalities well so they can ask what kinds of problems do I have in my city? What kind of tools can I use for these solutions? What is my real pain point?” said lead instructor Dr Poornima Dore, Tata Trust’s head for Data-Driven Governance.

The course overviews data types, what data sources are available in India, and how to manage data in urban data platforms. The basics also included the relevant laws in India (the pending Personal Data Protection Bill and the National Data Sharing and Accessibility Policy) with comparisons to the US, Europe and China.

To help CDOs develop their own local case studies, the Tata Trust-developed curriculum explored five different governance sectors: urban mobility, improving school attendance, solid waste management, public health management, and participatory planning for development. The CDOs have also developed their own city data policies to take precautions in security and privacy.

The CDOs also provided their own suggestions for the cohort. Ranchi discussed the potential of linking the Open Data Policy and the Right to Information frameworks. Nava Raipur suggested that greenfield cities such as itself and Amaravati should be evaluated on infrastructure parameters such as length of clean water pipelines or number of streetlights rather than the number of citizens that will benefit from these services.

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