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Data Back Bones for Smart Cities

At Ramco we are all “allowed to make some noise” at work. Actually we are encouraged to do so. This is the exhortation for people at Ramco to have their say; aka: Become a Blogger and make yourself heard. So thus is born this blog.

This post I thought I would use to set a context around what my blog is all about.

I am going to be writing about my experiences with developing and implementing Local Government solutions, the joys and sorrows, optimal and leading practices for municipalities and last but not the least the management of projects in the government space.

My other thread is going to be on Data Migration, the processes and the whole lot.

I am excited and eager to get done now that I have come past my first few sentences. Looking forward to hearing from all of you. I like a good “scrap”, to put it mildly a robust debate. So lets get to it. Â

What better topic to start it off with than what is being bandied about a lot these days– Smart Cities.

I am calling this Smart Data Back bones to make your cities smarter.

I came across this article “intelligent Cities” in The Time Magazine (http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2026474_2026675_2026667,00.html) relating the technology with service delivery in an expanding urban milieu. It had instances of many phone applications delivering services and information and empowering mobile commerce in the interactions with the local government.

First reaction, cool….!

The development of these applications and the engagement with the developers were also quite interesting. I go beyond that for a moment; because, it got me thinking, well, for these phone/mobile applications to be delivering what they ought to, doesn’t this need a robust and comprehensive data backbone. Now having set this all up, the point I wanted to make and at that coming from an OLTP (Online Transaction Processing Systems) development and implementation background, was that, just think of all the information that needs to be captured and managed for these applications to feed off. Developed economies are working towards this value – added layer of mobile applications primarily due to the fact that their back bone is robust, working and tested. Can we just say this for the developing or underdeveloped nations as such now. The answer unfortunately is no, not because of the lack of applications for such use but primarily because of a lack of a data back bone. The second issue is that even if there is data there is duplication and spread over multiple systems that tying them up together is such a humongous task. The precursor to all this value addition is the data backbone.

Where do we start for a data backbone as far as local government and municipalities are concerned? Rhetorical Question in my opinion. I call it the two data pillars of managing local government – Start by knowing your People and Knowing where to provide the services. That is the start to developing a smart backbone to a smart city. Needless to say the data backbone will grow once you know your customer and what he wants where. Without knowing your customer you won’t know anything.

I quote from my experiences from working on development and deployment of Local Government applications in South Africa with Ramco for smart data back bones. Today, Municipalities are businesses and big businesses at that. Revenue Collections in the Tier I cities for services and utilities cross three billion USD annually. These are top line figures that multinationals Fortune 500 corporations would turn green with envy. These are revenues generated out in a finite metropolitan area and not from around the world. Many of these utilities that the local government provides are in direct competition to private providers. The front ending smart city applications are the glamour boys who cannot operate without the unsung hardworking smart data back bone. Don’t you think the way to a smart city is with first building a smart data back bone?

 - Contributed by Vancheeswar B