Right after taking power, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration quickly raised the prominence of Smart Cities, announcing an ambitious vision to create a better quality of urban life by harnessing digital technologies. Whilst policy makers grapple with how realistic this vision is, many of us are already “smart” urbanistas, using applications and services to make our lives easier, more fun, informed, and connected.
But which is India’s smartest metropolis by use of city apps today?
I decided to find out by surfing on Google Play Store from my smart phone and looking at the number of apps (which include the city’s name in the title) available for download. I then looked at how many downloads there have been of the most popular app. A simple approach, Android-based only, and indicative rather than precise. I looked at 10 Indian cities, and, for interest, 10 global ones. Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore were obvious choices, as is Kolkata given its mega-city status. I opted for Hyderabad and Pune, given both have strong connections to technology, and Ahemdabad given its status as the capital of forward-looking Gujarat, home to many of India’s smart city ambitions. I then selected some wild cards in Chandigarh and Lucknow, and Agra as it has such a strong tourism pull.
And the India winner is… Mumbai! Noted below are the scores for the top 8 from my India analysis, and the top 8 globally.
Here are a few key observations:
1. On Google Play Store there are no less than 225 applications available which include the word “Mumbai” in the title.
2. The number 1 rated app for Mumbai, a bus timetable, has had 1 million downloads. Equivalent to over 5% of the population, this is impressive.
3. On a trawl through major cities of the world, including New York and London, I found not one has more downloads than Mumbai. With 187 apps, Dubai has less apps on offer than Mumbai or Delhi.
4. Mumbai’s figures confirm how the city’s mobile users have more in common with a European city than the rest of India.
5. While major Indian cities are on par with more developed countries, other regional cities lag behind: Dhaka, Karachi and Yangon combined have only as many apps as Pune.
6. Despite the numbers, Indian city apps are generally logistics-based, relating to bus times and train times. By contrast, World city apps seem to be more qualitative, focusing on tourist advice and travel services. By contrast, World city apps are more qualitative, focusing on tourist advice and travel services. Trip Advisor city guides dominate downloads in many cities, which is interesting.
Of course there is much more to a smart city than apps. In fact, apps indicate more about the smartness of its citizens, than the city itself. What it takes for a city to be smart relates much more to the fixed and mobile telecoms infrastructure, the overlaying information infrastructure, and the collaboration between private sector and public agencies. How likely it is that Indian cities can emerge as smarter cities is something I will write about shortly.