The Shimla Municipal Corporation (SMC) covers an area of 35.34 square km, which is divided into 34 wards. The city has a population of 0.08 million (Census 2011), up from 0.01 million (Census 2001). A large number of domestic and foreign tourists throng to the city every year. As a result, Shimla’s urban infrastructure facilities have been stretched to the limit and providing basic civic services has become a challenge for the corporation.
SMC has taken several initiatives to provide smart solutions to its citizens. It has started providing several online services such as payment of property tax. The status of no-objection certificate and properties available in a particular area can also be viewed online. The pan-city initiatives are centred around the establishment of a backbone communication network, an intelligent transportation system and an intelligent waste management system. These initiatives are expected to improve the experience of local residents and assist in the administration and provision of civic services. The city has also been included under the Smart Cities Mission, which is expected to provide a facelift to its infrastructure.
IT initiatives taken by SMC
In September 2019, the Himachal Pradesh government launched three new government-to-citizen (G2C) services to the SMC website, taking the total services being provided online to 11. The new services include a garbage charges collection application, a building planning application, and a rent and lease application. These services being provided by the Himachal Pradesh Information Technology Department are expected to bring in more transparency and efficiency in SMC’s operations. The key benefits of these services are:
- They will help in eliminating middlemen by providing a single window for all G2C services at the corporation level.
- They will provide time-bound citizen-centric services to the residents of Shimla.
- They will facilitate online payment through a payment gateway.
- They will reduce footfalls at the SMC office.
- Consumers will be able to track their transaction status and payment record through these services.
In addition, an online building planning application was launched to enable those seeking approval of their building maps to apply online. The application is expected to improve customer experience as building owners will be able to check the status of maps at the click of a button.
The SMC Android mobile app was launched in September 2016 for faster grievance redressal. This bilingual app offers offline content as well as various interactive features when accessed through the internet. The basic information available on the app can be accessed without registration. The app creates a common interface for tourists, residents of Shimla, SMC officials and the elected representatives of the municipal corporation. It offers various facilities to different groups of users. In June 2016, SMC launched a mobile app for providing online parking facility to the city’s residents. It provides information on the availability of parking lots on a real-time basis and aims to address parking-related problems faced by tourists and residents.
E-Samadhan is a 24×7 consumer grievance tracking and redressal system, which allows residents to submit applications for their complaints and store these offline for future reference. In order to provide centralised services and save consumers’ time, SMC has set up the Nagar Nigam Suvidha Kendra or E-Suvidha Kendra. The app allows residents to obtain their birth and death certificates, below poverty line certificates, marriage certificates, etc., all under a single roof.
The way forward
To ensure better governance, SMC has adopted IT solutions for providing various services. Going forward, the technological advancements are expected to improve the customer interface. SMC’s online services and mobile applications are expected to serve as an example for other local bodies implementing similar initiatives.
Four years into implementation, the smart cities story is still evolving. A smart city allows real-time data to be collected and analysed with the use of software, server substructures, network infrastructure and client devices. The key to the success of such services is large-scale citizen participation. It is equally important to maintain an up-to-date and accurate citizen database.