In 2015, the Indian government launched the Smart Cities Mission, a bold and ambitious $15 billion urban renewal and retrofitting program to develop 100 cities around the country.
Half the world away, the Australian government is also driving innovative new solutions to investment, policy and technology through the national $50 million Smart Cities Plan. Focused on around 50 cities, Australia's plan sets out a vision to rethink the way cities are planned, built and managed today—and in the future.
Regardless of where smart city programs are located, they rely on collaboration and shared knowledge to turn vision into reality.
So, what if there was a way to connect Australian and Indian smart city experts to facilitate the free flow of ideas between the two nations?
It was this proposition that won University of NSW (UNSW) PhD student, Sarbeswar Praharaj, an Australia India Council (AIC) grant in the Public Policy category to establish 'A Knowledge Exchange Network for Australian and Indian Smart Cities'.
Based at the UNSW Faculty of Built Environment in the Smart Cities Research Cluster, Sarbeswar is a driving force behind the Australia India Smart Cities Knowledge Exchange Network (AISCKEN), an organisation that brings together the best and brightest minds in business, technology, academia and research.
For Sarbeswar and the team at UNSW, the AIC grant has been a catalyst for strengthening Australia-India collaboration on smart cities and promoting the exchange of knowledge.
"The idea," explains Sarbeswar, "is to expose influential Indian policy makers to the best Australia can offer. But we also wanted to connect Australians to India's smart city experts, so we led a delegation from Australia to India as well."
Working alongside AISCKEN, Sarbeswar plans workshops and study tours for a variety of Indian and Australian experts to showcase their innovations and share ideas for smart city development.
"What's so exciting about these initiatives is the sheer amount of knowledge that passes between Australia and India, to the benefit of both countries," says Sarbeswar.
For example, the grant program has highlighted collaboration opportunities among small and medium-sized Indian cities like Raipur and Bhopal, who are especially eager to build partnerships and are hungry for shared solutions. Knowing this, Australian smart city planners are now refocusing partnership efforts on next-tier cities where the opportunities are significantly bigger.
Other initiatives made possible by the AIC grant include taking Indian delegations to visit precincts like Barangaroo, Central Park and Parramatta that offer unique, real-world insights for the Indian experience.
In his final grant report, "The knowledge Exchange Network Between Australian and Indian Smart Cities", Sarbeswar even identifies focus areas and cities that Australians can engage with as part of India's Smart Cities Mission.
"It is an ongoing back-and-forth that's leading to better cities everywhere, from Parramatta to Punjab," says Sarbeswar.
We spoke recently with Sarbeswar about his accomplishments in urban planning research, his AIC grant work, and his strong contribution to the Australia–India relationship.
Read the full interview with Sarbeswar Praharaj from our 'Australia & India. A Dynamic Mix' series.
Learn more about the economic potential of the Australia-India partnership in An India Economic Strategy to 2035 – Navigating from potential to delivery
Read more dynamic stories that form an integral part of the Australia-India relationship