Partnering to Develop Smart Cities and Economic Growth

By USTDA Director Leocadia I. Zak and U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Secretary Bruce Andrews

India faces a challenging road ahead to achieve its economic and environmental ambitions, yet it is not alone in its effort. During a trade mission to India earlier this month, it was clear to us that the United States can be a valuable partner in helping India develop a 21st century, sustainable economy. Working together, we can help India not only build the foundation for a sustainable, green future – but, in the process, show the world how to create truly 21st century cities.

The push to build smart cities comes amid rapid urbanization across India.  The World Bank reports urban areas in India are expanding faster than previously thought, growing by 90 million residents over the last 10 years.  By 2030, India’s cities are expected to house another 250 million people.  Such tremendous growth requires local and state leaders to plan strategically and to develop infrastructure that can accommodate increasing populations. We commend Prime Minister Modi and his government for leading the charge to build smart cities, and we believe that the U.S. can play an important role. That is why we recently led a trade mission to India for 18 U.S. companies interested in working on these efforts.  Throughout our trip, we met with innovative leaders in both the public and private sectors who have a clear vision for India’s future, and who are working to make that vision a reality.              

We heard about investments that are already transforming the country.  We celebrated the inauguration of Tata Power Delhi Distribution Ltd.’s Smart Grid Test Laboratory, which will demonstrate innovative solutions and best practices for Indian utilities.  The new Laboratory builds upon the successful partnership between USTDA and Tata Power, which has helped the utility enhance the quality of life for the people of Delhi.  

When India privatized its utilities in the 1990s, Tata Power had to make substantial changes to improve both distribution and customer service, which included modernizing its electric grid, reducing and managing outages and utilizing renewable energy.  Using smart infrastructure and smart investments, Tata Power has improved the quality and reliability of its services while also investing in new medical facilities, vocational training and women’s literacy programs.

Tata Power’s progress helps make the case for investing in smart solutions for India’s cities.  By using advanced technologies, local leaders can better accommodate and guide the growth of their cities, while enhancing the services provided to residents. On the trip, we discussed many issues key to the success of smart cities, such as effective project planning, sustainable infrastructure development and innovative financing methods.  It is estimated that smart cities projects will cost between $200 and $700 million – the majority of which must come from private investment. Therefore, public-private partnerships will have to drive this initiative. During the trip, we consulted with leading U.S. and Indian companies on their planned approaches for working together.

It was a productive trade mission, and we both look forward to following up on the conversations we had.  Fortunately, we will not have to wait long.  This week, USTDA will host a delegation of leaders from the state of Andhra Pradesh for the Smart Solutions for Smart Cities Reverse Trade Mission.  The delegates will travel to Washington, DC, New York, NY and San Francisco, CA to meet with U.S. industry and to see solutions that can help them meet their smart cities objectives. We are confident that these visits – U.S. companies visiting India and Indian stakeholders visiting American cities – will go a long way toward strengthening U.S.-India commercial ties and helping India to build smart, sustainable cities.