Vibhor Pandey On A 3-Ingredient Approach To Designing Better Cities


Do you know what happens when a vehicle has more than one driver and the wheels are a different shape to one another?

A few weeks ago I reached a milestone of spending more than 10,000 hours in analysing and synthesising urban data in business of cities. In my interaction with people, government and institutions, it is evident that they all want the same thing: a person-centred approach to tackling the challenges cities face, and opportunities we have in building the future.

Across the globe, a broad spectrum of the execution models are emerging to design better cities focusing on utilities, transport, buildings to name a few. Governments are spending a significant amount of public money on designing policies, programs, and projects to identify potential smart cities. However, the activities of smart, sustainable, and resilient cities have yet to create a positive impact on the community. Part of the problem is current measurement metrics – but that’s a topic for another day.  


Why is it that I don’t see a significant impact? I believe Government is the driver of the “smart city vehicle”; of those, the four wheels are – connectivity, mobility, sustainability, and security.


These wheels can’t score miles if the driver is not proactive and agile enough to adopt to the technologies that are changing our urban lives faster than we think.

So, what should the driver do? Even before we implement these new technologies, new business models, and new regulations – the driver needs to run some vehicle checks.

Here are three things that I believe should happen in efforts, to design and build our future cities:

1) Attitude

2) Alignment and

3) Action

Attitude: There is a word in Sanskrit called Iccha - it means 'a strong aspiration' or 'desire'. The “Attitude” refers to the quality of our aspirations to design a better city and intention that we bring into our efforts and activities. Quality of aspirations refer to clarity of thoughts and defining the end goals for all the stakeholders, but more specifically – the civic population. It reduces or clears ambiguity and builds trust.

A collective (co-designed) attitude or Iccha will make sure that all the passengers in the bus are heading in the same direction.     

Alignment; with the federal government’s initiative on the smart city agenda – most of the states and cities have dedicated entities, associations, and working groups for implementation and or advocacy.

In my research, one of the most important aspects that I find missing is the ideological alignment.

This alignment comes from quality of skills involved in transformation, and knowledge of the tools and techniques of its users.

So ideologically speaking, there is no point promoting Artificial Intelligence projects in a city plan if the “Open Data” is not up and running and profusely used by its residents. An alignment is vital to establish that all the passengers have shared their desired location, willing to go on a journey and will cooperate to enjoy the ride.

Action: “Action” is defined as the use of the policies, programs, and projects to actually empower residents to practice initiatives from a place of strong aspirations, with an attitude of applying the knowledge of the end goal.

A stronger focus on housing, transport, and an innovation economy will enable a smooth transition into smart city initiatives.

Therefore, to achieve an applied form of smart city initiatives, an urban response to the digital era is utmost important. The bus will reach the desired pace - an “informed space” – only with the help of digital, data, and participatory governance.


In my conclusion, an element of civic innovation within the departments is needed, wherein government bodies should run programs like high growth startups.

I believe that openness (Attitude), collaboration (Alignment), and agility (Action) are key to designing, developing and deploying civic solutions that matter to residents; not technologies.  

Let’s design better cities with these 3 (A.A.A.) ingredients. 


About the author

Vibhor Pandey has more than a decade of international experience in solving business problems, economic development using "data to decision" models, and telling engaging stories to create a positive impact on business and community. His professional background is completed by intrapreneurial expertise in developing new businesses, formulating business strategies, and driving innovation processes for multi-national companies.

Activities of social impact started early in his life, when he helped his parents to run a Not for Profit towards environmental sustainability, and later, during his university days, he started an NGO; wrote and directed puppet shows to raise funds and help the underprivileged.  

In his own words - Vibhor is a data culturist, a relentless yogi, and an avid dreamer.


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