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India could be a leader in the world in developing smart cities: Joel Cherkis, Oracle

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Joel Cherkis , Global Vice President – Infrastructure, Government, Education, & Health – at Oracle’s Industry Solutions Group, believes that India could be the global leader in developing smart cities. While talking to EconomicTimes.com, on the sidelines of the Oracle Openworld conference, which is being held in India for the first time, he also applauded Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision to digitise the country. Edited excerpts:

Right now, in India, there are a lot of discussions about digitisation. However, there are skeptics who argue that India does not have the necessary infrastructure. Do you think India is rushing through its digitisation process without building the necessary infrastructure?
I think India is in a great position to digitise. There are certain capabilities that exist and it’s important for the government to interact with those immediately. The Prime Minister’s goal is to connect remote villages. It’s important to have a goal and a plan a roadmap to deliver that. There is still a lot of work left, vis-a-vis connectivity. However, the good thing is, with the support of the Prime Minister, everything is possible.

On a scale of 0-10, where do you think India stands in terms of infrastructure?
I can’t really tell because here I am a visiting business personality. However, India will be able to compete with the infrastructure of cities like Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona sooner than what a lot of people think. The biggest challenge is the population of India. China has the same issue. Australia’s challenge, on the other and, is its vast geographical area. Laying fibre cables across thousands of miles is their challenge.

Do you think it is possible to develop cities like Delhi and Mumbai into smart cities?
I think it is easier to develop smart cities from ground-up. But a majority of countries are retro-fitting their cities with aged infrastructure. Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Philadelphia, Manchester, Wellington, Cape Town are some of the examples.

Very few of the old cities have modern systems. Water and energy, for example, are not being delivered effectively because they have leakages. But it is possible to convert cities like Delhi and Mumbai into smart cities. The most important thing is to connect services like parking, waste management, energy management, water supply etc. If you can implement systems that modenrise these areas, the standard of living would improve automatically through better environment and hygiene. This, in turn, helps businesses to prosper.

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