India has built a reputation as a global leader in pursuing smart city initiatives in its larger urban areas. But critics are worried that villages, where most of the Indian population still resides, are being forgotten in the rush to convert the big metropolises into connected cities.

A Times of India article reported that Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh criticized India’s flagship Smart City initiative, which is promoted by central governments, as being “insufficient and inadequate” for the country’s smaller population centers. Singh urged governments to instead focus on creating smart villages to foster overall economic growth of India.

“Villages rather than cities need to be made smart for the overall progress and development of the country,” said Singh at a recent event in Kota.

“Without making the villages smart, nation cannot become developed and progressive.”

India’s villages make up bulk of population

Recent population statistics indicate that the vast majority of Indians live in villages, with 70% of India’s 1.25 billion people considered villagers.

He argued that because the bulk of Indians live in villages governments are neglecting a critical opportunity to both improve economic potential and basic services by creating smart villages. He pointed out that most villages lack essential infrastructure like roads, electricity and drinking water.

India’s central government launched their Smart Cities Mission last year, a huge urban renewal and retrofitting program with a mission to develop 100 cities all over the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi , the government’s vision is the development of 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities and modernization of existing mid-sized cities.

Federal ministries work with state and municipal governments on the smart cities initiative, but a focus on smaller villages would probably require state government leadership. Governor Singh added that he recently spoke with the state’s chief secretary to encourage government development initiatives be focused on the smaller population areas to create smart villages.