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Union minister for housing and urban affairs Hardeep Singh Puri on Wednesday launched the Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge, which focuses on shaping cities for young children and their families. The move is aimed at ensuring the development of common spaces along with the creation of data banks for better planning in smart cities.

Puri also launched the Data Maturity Assessment Framework (DMAF) to evaluate data ecosystems of cities and an online training programme for city data officers of smart cities.

About 40% of India’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2030, according to estimates. To cater to this growth, India will have to build 600 to 800 million sq m of urban space each year.

The Nurturing Neighbourhoods Challenge is a three-year initiative through which select cities will receive technical assistance and help in capacity-building to re-imagine parks and open spaces, improve access to early childhood facilities, adapt public spaces with early childhood-oriented amenities, and create accessible, safe, walkable streets for young children and families. The challenge will be open to all smart cities, other cities with more than 500,000 population, and capitals of states and Union territories.

DMAF will support cities in the creation of a culture of data. The government aims to enable cities to assess their own data maturity with respect to a standardized framework covering aspects of enabling policies, governance structures, data management, capacity building, and stakeholder engagement at the city level.

“Part of our Prime Minister’s Digital India campaign is to ensure that government’s services are made available to citizens more efficiently by leveraging data and digital technologies. The DataSmart Cities Initiative launched by the Smart Cities Mission is a step in that direction. By harnessing the combinatorial powers of data and technology, the initiative aims to foster evidence-based planning and institutionalize a robust mechanism for performance management," Puri said.

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