The Smart Cities Mission was launched in 2015, the same year as the New Urban Agenda adopted by the world community. One of the flagship ‘missions’ of the Indian government, it has stimulated renewed national and global interest in India’s urbanisation while also drawing criticism for its technological ambitions and seemingly slow progress. Shah presented the argument that, at its core, the smart city agenda is an innovative intervention strategy for making 100 exemplary cities ‘smart’ by disrupting the business-as-usual manner of planning, funding and governing that has become entrenched since the 1960’s, producing significant shortages in infrastructure and services.
As the Mission moved into its fourth year, a considerable body of evidence and experience has become available for study. Using data as well as participant observations gathered at the frontline of the Mission, Shah discussed the anticipated impact of the ‘smart cities’ in the context of India’s urbanisation trajectories and ways that India’s experience can inform the global narrative on sustainable development.