When India’s “smart cities” mission announced its ranking of applicants for support in 2016, Bhubaneswar – the capital of the state of Odisha – topped the list. The Foundation has been working with city authorities and India’s National Institute of Urban Affairs to make sure that it becomes not only a smart city, but India’s first child-friendly smart city. Bhubaneswar became in 2016 one of the first partner cities for the Foundation’s Urban95 initiative.
The city is expanding quickly, like many in India, leading to chaotic growth concentrated on informal, slum settlements with inadequate infrastructure. Problems faced by young children include open defecation; parks not being accessible; lack of footpaths, streetlights, and safe places to cross roads; and children in some neighbourhoods needing to use public transport, which is not child-friendly, to get to the nearest school.
In collaboration with the National Institute of Urban Affairs in New Delhi, the Foundation set up and is funding the Child-Friendly Smart City Centre, which is now part of the Bhubaneswar Development Authority.
The Child-Friendly Smart City Centre is now providing technical and capacity building support to urban planners and other municipal staff, working to create guidelines, regulations and best practices. It is working on projects such as retrofitting city parks to be child-friendlier, mapping where children and families live in the city and what services are available to them, and exploring how to improve traffic management on selected streets near schools.