#Focus ICAS12 | Digitalizing Democratic Participation: India’s Smart Cities
India’s latest urban revival project – the Smart Cities Mission (SCM) started in 2015 – continues with older agendas of privatization and democratization that were initiated in past policies. A significant intervention in the SCM is a sharp focus on digital tools and data which is claimed to be employed towards an agenda of enhanced citizen participation and better delivery of services through partnerships with technocratic firms.
This paper looks at how does the SCM qualitatively understand participation, the tools it uses to create participatory networks and the role of private firms in this project. Using material sourced from policy documents and citizen surveys it seeks to answer if digitalization is an effective strategy in urban governance. The paper also seeks to understand the framework of data use, sharing, privacy and surveillance concerns in the SCM. It analysis the framework of the DataSmart platform of the SCM to see if the policy, institutions and guidelines on data are in consonance with the democratic imagination of the SCM policy. The paper argues that in order to effectively implement digitalization towards democratic goals, a stronger vision of data literacy is necessary for the country and the Smart Cities Mission.
Khaliq Parkar is a Doctoral Candidate at CESSMA, Université de Paris. His research combines processes of governance and digitalization in the context of Smart Cities in India.