Towards smarter service provision for smart cities: accounting for the social costs of urban service provision

Considered to be the largest contributor to the growth in the world’s urban population in the coming years, India and its urbanisation process have reached a critical juncture. As one of the fastest growing countries, urbanisation is undoubtedly an opportunity and a challenge for India with huge implications for the rest of the world. One crucial issue in this respect is the provisioning of basic urban services in our cities. Through a case study of four Indian cities, this work examines the current unmanaged growth (business as usual urbanisation) and the costs associated with it. Using a social cost accounting (SCA) methodology, it estimates the market and non-market costs associated with the delivery of water, sanitation, transport and energy services. Thus the study goes beyond often discussed issues of access to services and the direct costs involved and invites attention to often ignored social and environmental costs. Each service provision is also categorized into public, private and self-provision across the three sectors and explored further. The study highlights that despite high levels of coverage in the four cities, the quantity and quality of services are inadequate in many respects, especially in the case of water and transport, and have high associated social and environmental costs.