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Fostering urban data observatories as local level resilience centres

The event will stimulate a healthy dialogue across academia, urban authorities, and citizens on the relevance of designing people centric urban data observatories as an integrating platform for urban resilience and local actions.

Vaishnavi Shankar



Tuesday, June 28, 2022


Multifunction Hall Room 8
National Institute of Urban Affairs
Transforming Cities through Innovative Solutions and Technologies
NE 68


The magnitude of the COVID-19 crisis threw an unprecedented challenge to contain the virus without the luxury of time or the advantage of reflection, analysis, or consultation. India was no different, and our cities became vulnerable to infection with their high population density and overcrowded spaces. Governments at all levels across the country have taken all possible measures to limit the loss of human lives and minimize economic disruption. There was less time to strategize and cities, being the worst hit, had to make innovative choices quickly and efficiently. The pandemic has triggered an unparalleled demand for massive coordination and pandemic management that is difficult to achieve manually. The city data observatories (Integrated Command and Control Centres) commissioned by Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (Government of India) under Smart Cities Mission played a critical role in shaping the cities response. The scale of coordination and management of data in such successful endeavours was with the adoption of all means of technological integration at data observatories. Many of India’s cities effectively used their city data observatories, which act as the “brain and nervous system” for the city’s operations management, as “Emergency War Rooms” for computing city-specific data, coordinating supply of food and medicine , and connecting with citizens. At the same time, across all the cities, civil society, academic and corporate institutions have come forward to work together with the government in managing the global pandemic. The city data observatories played a key role in decentralized decision-making and bridging local communities with city officials during the outbreak. The city-level actions formed a trust among government actors, the private sector, civil society, and the public was rooted in the equitable recognition for leveraging data-driven decision-making. The city data observatories strengthened ground-level actions and data governance capabilities during the pandemic management which resulted in the development of the required agility and improved resilience for future crisis management. To institutionalize this transformation, the Indian cities are now on the path to the right institutional coordination mechanisms and data-driven service delivery. To institutionalize this transformation, the city’s data observatories can be used as the platform for coordinating local actions and supporting ground-level activities. These data observatory has greater potential for improving people's lives by making visions, strategies, policies for managing future crises and converting a more realistic, robust, and conducive environment for local level resilient centers. The new inclusive techno- institutional mechanism evolved during the pandemic in Indian cities can serve as models for helping other governments across the world to realize the benefits of cities in a post-pandemic world.


Our aim is to stimulate a healthy dialogue across academia, urban authorities, and citizens on the relevance of designing people centric urban data observatories as an integrating platform for urban resilience and local actions. The event will create a space for speakers to share good practices and approaches within the country to help the participants get a holistic perspective on the role of data observatories in building ground zero/ local level resilience. The event also outlines multiple approaches of dealing with the data at various levels of management and governance. The session will deliberate on the larger impacts of people centric urban data observatories and specifically its importance in ground level response. It presents an exciting opportunity for discussion on to make realistic development plans, plans with priorities, targets that are measurable and link with the global sustainable development goals, on one hand, and, on the other, initiate a conversation on the changing paradigms of urbanism. The event will create platform for speakers to discuss the roadmap to achieve the larger goal of building local level capacities to be prepared and equipped to lead digital transformation strategies that are people-centered and support sustainable urbanization towards the public good. The outcome will assist in developing foundations, structures and tools necessary for developing a rights-based governance of the digitalisation of municipal services.

Session speakers

Dr. Umamaheshwaran Rajasekar
Chair Urban Resilience
Global Resilience Cities Network
Dr. Helmut Schön
Principle Economist
KfW Development Bank
Dr. Debjani Ghosh
Associate Professor
National Institute of Urban Affairs
Ms. Vaishali Nandan
Project Head - Climate Smart Cities (CSC)
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Dr. Himanshu Shekhar
Associate Academic Officer
United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)