Surat Safe City Project
By Microsoft Customer Stories on September 10, 2015
Filed under Microsoft CityNext
The rapidly growing city of Surat, India, decided to adopt new technologies to increase the efficiency of city operations. The Municipal Commissioner has improved access to services through an online Virtual Civic Center and is working on a City Dashboard to better track services delivery. The Police Commissioner has reduced crime by 27 percent in parts of the city with a new video-enabled command center, and a new application management system helps citizens submit paperwork to the city and track progress online.
The full story
The city of Surat is located on the west coast of India, approximately 150 miles north of Mumbai. Surat is the world’s fourth-fastest-growing city, with a population of approximately 5.5 million citizens, and it is an important business hub. Approximately 80 percent of the world’s diamonds are processed in Surat, and the city also supplies 40 percent of India’s textiles.
Because of its rapid population growth, the city wanted to upgrade its municipal infrastructure and public safety services to meet increasing demand and its residents’ changing needs. To address these challenges, Surat has embraced a forward-thinking digital strategy that seeks technological solutions to improve city operations and sustain economic growth. The Indian national government has recognized the importance of efforts like this— it allocated funds to develop 100 “smart cities” across the country, and Surat is helping lead that effort.
To expedite its transformation, Surat became the first Indian city to engage with Microsoft CityNext, which helps empower local governments to deliver people-first solutions that make cities safer, healthier, more prosperous, and more sustainable. The offices of the Municipal Commissioner and the Police Commissioner are both working to realize these changes.
Transforming the city with technology
As part of the CityNext engagement, the office of the Municipal Commissioner has launched a Digital City project that looks across all departments and services to find new ways that technology can streamline operations. The city’s partnership with Microsoft has been an important part of the effort—Surat currently uses more than 60 Microsoft solutions across the municipal administration. “In the face of rapid growth, it becomes increasingly important to utilize technology to enable constant modernization,” says Milind Torawane, Municipal Commissioner for the City of Surat. “In cooperation with Microsoft and its partners, we are working on numerous technology projects to upgrade our service delivery channels, boost internal efficiencies, improve urban planning, and make Surat a modern and competitive smart city that truly cares for its citizens.”
Surat citizens have access to a Virtual Civic Center through the city website where they can pay taxes, renew business licenses, check and pay water meter charges, book facilities, file complaints, and obtain birth and death certificates. Working with its technology partners, Surat plans to develop additional e-government solutions that will enhance project management capabilities, improve utility services, further increase public safety, and provide city administrators with a City Dashboard that offers a unified and customized view of key performance indicators related to services delivery.
Some of the city’s other technology successes include:
- Automating management of water treatment plants to optimize water usage and minimize waste
- Computerizing critical city operations, including accounts, auditing, materials management, revenue collection, and job application testing
- Increasing the efficiency of solid waste management by implementing a vehicle tracking system for door-to-door garbage collection
- Adding continuously updated arrival time displays at all city bus stops
- Introducing computer software training in all schools
- Generating 36 percent of the city’s energy from renewable sources
The city has even enlisted the public’s help to develop innovative new solutions to make Surat a safer and healthier place to live. In December 2014, Surat and Microsoft organized an “Appathon,” where nearly 100 technical students, software developers, and other IT professionals had 24 hours to build new Windows-based mobile apps. The winning app, Citizen Health Survey & Analysis, will improve the city’s healthcare system by simplifying field survey data collection to monitor citizen health and control the spread of diseases.
Making Surat a safer city
One particular challenge that Surat faced was ensuring that its police force could adequately protect its increasing population. With a ratio of 93 officers per 100,000 citizens, the city needs to make sure that the police department has the tools it needs to succeed. “The role of the police is to maintain law and order, to keep the peace in our society, and to prevent and detect crime,” says Rakesh Asthana, Commissioner of Police for the City of Surat. “Our biggest shortcoming in recent years has been a lack of personnel. So we feel it is important to maximize our use of technology to bridge the gap between the number of police officers and the growth of the city.”
To help empower the police force, Surat embarked on a Safe City project and teamed up with Microsoft Partner Network member Innovative Telecom & Softwares to build a new 5,000-square-foot command and control center. It includes a 280-square-foot video wall monitor that streams real-time video feeds from critical public locations and major traffic junctions around Surat, along with the city’s entry and exit points. The new command center runs the Windows Server operating system, Microsoft SQL Server database software, and the Windows 7 operating system.
“From the control center, the police department can keep an eye on the entire city,” explains Moin Shaikh, Director at Innovative Telecom & Softwares. “The city has installed 600 cameras that are paired with the latest surveillance technology, which includes extensive analytic capabilities. The city has also built a datacenter that can be scaled to accommodate up to 5,000 cameras and can integrate with the state and national security grids. We use Microsoft technology because it’s scalable, rugged, reliable, and highly secure.”
Surat intends to further improve the surveillance system by including advanced face-recognition technology. The solution will be able to enhance poor-quality video images and match them against mug shot databases and watch lists of individuals. The city also plans to implement an integrated physical security information management system to facilitate disaster management planning and execution. It will visualize buildings or other assets and generate maps of the city that can be combined with the city’s disaster management solution for greater insights.
The city has already benefited from the new command and control center. “Since implementation, we’ve seen a 27 percent reduction in crime in the surveillance zones,” says Asthana. “This is a great starting point and there’s still a lot further that we can go. I’m very happy with the results that we’ve gotten from this technology.”
Streamlining citizen services
In addition to maintaining public safety, the office of the Police Commissioner also handles residents’ applications for requests such as passport verification, police permission for rallies or festivals, and citizen complaints. In the past, this process was inefficient and time consuming, making it difficult to promptly acknowledge the receipt of applications and provide citizens with the final result. To streamline the process, the city has been implementing a new application management system with the help of Microsoft partner Dev IT. “Traditionally, the process was entirely paper based, and there was no good way to track the progress of an application,” says Chetan Desai, Senior Executive Officer at Dev IT. “We used Microsoft SQL Server to develop a solution that makes it easier to collect, distribute, and query information about individual submissions.”
Citizens can access the system online from home and receive immediate acknowledgment of their submission. For citizens who would rather submit applications manually, the city still has some service centers where they can drop off physical applications. Staff members then scan the applications into the electronic system. The new solution has been very effective—it has helped Surat process more than 27,000 applications from August 2013 to June 2015, and many applications are now processed in less than one minute. In addition to offering faster service for citizens, the fully automated, paperless workflow makes employees’ jobs easier and creates new operational efficiencies within the office of the Police Commissioner.
By making city government more transparent and providing insight into the applications approval process, Surat is working to build trust with its residents. “We felt it was essential that citizens be able to track the status of their applications, so we created an online solution that that provides real-time updates,” says Asthana. “By doing this, citizens are more satisfied with our services.”
Boosting citizen satisfaction and the city’s reputation
The successes of the Police Commissioner’s Safe City project and Municipal Commissioner’s Digital City project can be seen in citizens’ attitudes. The nonprofit organization Janaagraha did a survey of all major cities in India, and Surat was the top-rated city in terms of both citizen satisfaction and the perception of local government. As Surat continues to innovate with Microsoft CityNext, it is becoming an example that other cities can follow. “By transforming Surat into a smart city, we are setting a benchmark for other cities on how IT solutions can help empower citizens, address challenges, and fuel economic growth,” says Niranjan Zanzmera, Mayor of Surat.
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