Mr. Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of the State of Maharashtra and Ms. Manisha Patankar-Mhaiskar, Secretary of Urban Development for the State of Maharashtra met today with the MIT Emerging Worlds team at the government offices in Nashik, Maharashtra, India. Mr. Fadnavis and Ms. Patankar-Mhaiskar were in Nashik to plan for the upcoming Kumbh Mela, and they took time to speak with Dr. Ramesh Raskar, Assistant Professor and Head of the Camera Culture Group at the MIT Media Lab. Also present from the MIT Emerging Worlds team were John Werner, Head of Innovation, Maggie Church, Administrative Assistant, Beth Zonis, Innovation Strategist and Sandip Shinde, CEO and Co-Founder Kumbha Foundation.
These two leading government officials are both enthusiastic about MIT’s Emerging Worlds Initiative, and about this week’s Kumbhathon. The outcomes will have clear benefits to Nashik – in terms of the Smart Citizens model, the specific innovations, and the innovation ecosystem overall.
Chief Minister Fadnavis came prepared. He had already visited the kumbha.org and nashik2015.com websites. MIT’s work is relevant to him, because the Government of Maharashtra is shortlisting 10 cities to be designated as “Smart Cities” in India. Decisions will be made in August. The idea is to engage city government and citizens in order to empower citizens in the planning of their own cities and to connect them with the resources they need. Mr. Fadnavis and Ms Patankar-Mhaiskar would like to see a chapter working with MIT in each city.
Dr. Raskar began by speaking about MIT’s effort to create a model for Smart Citizens to use as the foundation for Smart Cities. He said, “At MIT we call this SC Squared.” The MIT team is advising innovators to start with digital initiatives in order to gain traction more quickly. The MIT team is creating an innovation ecosystem and promoting a strong innovation culture in Nashik. The platform will be shared elsewhere across India and in other geographies around the world as well.
Ms. Patankar-Mhaiskar noted that bottom-up innovation is the best way. She stated that as Secretary of Urban Development, she is particularly interested in innovations that will make cities cleaner. In a place like Nashik, she said that we want to make sure that the river is never polluted. “This will be your eternal gift to Nashik!” she exclaimed.
She was glad to learn that the team will continue working after the Kumbh Mela. In a place like Nashik, there’s a great need for basic infrastructure solutions, especially in the areas of water, sewage and waste management. The Kumbhathon innovators are already thinking in terms of cleanliness. There’s a garbage tracking innovation, as well as a project with oil companies.
As Kumbhathon5 gets underway, the MIT is excited to share information about these meetings with the innovators and other stakeholders. Moving forward, the MIT team discussed a possibly advisory role with the Chief Minister is considering being on the advisory board of the MIT Emerging Worlds Initiative, and he will also consider having the MIT team advise him on the state’s Smart Cities work. In the short term, Ms. Patankar-Mhaiskar recommended that MIT and the State of Maharashtra work to make Smart Citizens and Smart Cities together. This week the Commissioner of Police for the City of Nashik is planning to visit the Kumbhathon and meet with the innovators.
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