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Illinois Signs Smart State Partnership with Telangana, India

Through an international partnership, Illinois CIO Hardik Bhatt is excited to exchange information, ideas and data to help make both states leaders in their respective countries.

Much is said about the future of cities and how they are getting smarter. But a more interesting question is how states fit into that equation.

Hardik Bhatt, chief information officer of Illinois, has been a long proponent of pushing his state into smarter governance.

“The idea is over the next three years we want to be not only the smartest state in the U.S., but our competition is Singapore, Dubai and others,” Bhatt said earlier this year. “And I think we can do that.”

As a part of setting Illinois up on the national stage, Bhatt also wants to make international connections and began by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian state of Telangana.

According to the MoU acquired by Government Technology, both states acknowledge the potential benefits of “developing Smart State solutions and facilitating development of Smart Cities within their jurisdictions.”

In a live-streamed signing of the MoU, Bhatt was joined by Telangana IT Minister K.T. Rama Rao, who explained how his state is working to set itself up as the smartest state in India.

And it's not just about having the smartest technology, Rama Rao said, explaining how smart states are making life more livable for all of their citizens. From smarter uses of limited resources to more government functions available online, Telangana is excited to learn from Illinois and its digital transformation.

Bhatt echoed the opinion of Rama Rao, explaining that being a smart state is about enabling cities to make the government work for everyone. It's about “transit, department of corrections and public works,” said Bhatt.

Although cities like San Francisco and Chicago are able to implement these great new technologies, Bhatt said that states are responsible for making sure even rural towns have access to state-of-the-art tech.

Through the partnership, the two states will not only share data, but will also share innovative ideas regarding “e-governance, entrepreneurship, innovation, incubation and joint practices,” Rama Rao said.

The MoU lays out 7 areas of cooperation between the states:

  1. smart state solutions
  2. e-government/government digitization
  3. entrepreneurship
  4. joint innovation
  5. joint incubators
  6. job creation
  7. sharing best practices
Included in the MoU was a line about sharing elements of Chicago's Array of Things program with Telangana. The project outfits existing pieces of infrastructure with a network of sensors that detect air pollution and measure traffic flow.

Along with sharing elements of the Array of Things, Illinois has also pledged to “share and provide lessons learned from the implementation of OpenGrid,” according to the MoU. The OpenGrid program is a GIS-based application that provides residents with a way to visually understand complex municipal data.

India launched its "100 Smart Cities" program in 2015 as an urban renewal program, focusing on developing 100 cities, making them more livable through retrofitting existing structures and greenfielding unused land (PDF).

Both Bhatt and Rama Rao expressed immense excitement about the upcoming project. Ausaf Sayeed, consul general of India in Chicago, even admitted a future project where the entire state of India may work with a multi-state region in the Midwestern states.

Editor's note: This story was updated on Oct. 18 at 1:45 p.m. with specific information acquired from the memorandum of understanding.

Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.

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