Day 1 – Monday, June 9th, 2014 – Today was the first day of our engagement. In order to prepare we met with several IBM Smarter Cities, Government Programs, and Taxation Subject Matter Experts (SMEs). Here’s a little peek into what we learned from our meetings today:
India – We had a very informative lesson on the structure of the Indian government at the federal, state and local levels to help us understand how the work we do at the city level is connected to Federal and State legislative and executive offices. We learned there is a renewed focus on urban revitalization and infrastructure improvements across India. There is a heightened sense of optimism with the recent elections resulting in a dominate position in the executive and legislative branches of government. It is hoped that the dominance of a single party will result in greater cooperation to progress Prime Minister Modi’s vision for change. One of the points in Modi’s vision is that of 100 Smarter Cities across India. Modi sees the future of urbanization in India as the platform for growth and improvement for the municipalities.
Smarter Cities – When we met with our Smarter Cities team, we discussed the priorities for Smarter Cities across India and the link to Modi’s vision. There are many needs across the cities of India from transportation and water management systems to public safety and energy. In Chennai, we are focused on optimizing the taxation process to support city services such as education and infrastructure development. Property taxation represents the single largest component of the city’s revenue. As we dive deeper into the opportunities with city leaders we will work to identify areas where processes may be leveraged beyond the property taxation to build greater efficiencies for the administration.
India Taxation – Like many places in the world, there are many different taxes levied in India. As visitors on the team, several of us were not clear about who pays which taxes and how they are calculated. To be sure we were understood the context for the property taxation process at the heart of our project, we spent time with the IBM taxation SME exploring several taxation processes including best practices across India. As we developed a better understanding of the processes and dependencies, the conversation served to help us formulate our follow up questions for the city’s project team. We will meet our city’s project team tomorrow in preparation for the formal project kick off on Thursday, June 12, with the Mayor, the Joint Commissioner and their staff.
It may appear that we are off to a slow start, but this is all part of the discovery process in this engagement. Sometimes the hardest thing to do in a new project is to ask the right questions. Our goal this week is to extract as much information as possible from the subject matter experts in the city, IBM, NGOs active with the government, and our own research to formulate a vision for what is possible and how it can be achieved.