Slumdog Millionaire & Intelligent Urbanization
Like many Indians, I woke up today with an Oscar fever, watching the live telecast of the Academy awards from Los Angeles! Most of India is toasting to the success of Slumdog Millionaire at the Oscars today. A staggering eight Oscars, including two for India’s most loved and my favorite music composer – A.R.Rahman. Slum dog’s story is that of a young man’s trials, tribulations and eventual triumph set in the background of Asia’s biggest slum -Dharavi in Mumbai, India. However not all of India is celebrating the success. A section of India is dismayed that the film has put a spot light on India’s underbelly -slums of urban India. The film captures in gory detail the poor living condition of urban India and many of its dark shades. Pictures that do not reconcile with the”India shining story,” pictures which renew the old”western” stereo type of India, pictures that makes you uncomfortable as an Indian. I too was initially sad when I saw the millions of dollars spent on promoting”Incredible India” by India’s Ministry of Tourism evaporate into the thin air. However I gave it some more thought and reconciled. As some one said ‘For everything said about India, the opposite is also true”. India is a land of paradox. India is as much about Dharavi as it is of A.R.Rahman, it is indeed home to some of the richest people in the world as it is to the millions of homeless and it surely is one of the fastest urbanizing countries in the world! Which leads into something that I have been involved with professionally in the recent times and wanted blog on -Intelligent Urbanization. As with many other things today, urbanization presents a challenge and an opportunity. The 20th century cities were built on infrastructure such as roads, and telephones. The contours of new cities of the 21st century will be defined by internet and broadband. Internet is expanding beyond connecting traditional devices such as computers and PDA. Today we have the ability to connect virtually anything -cars, hospitals, buildings, energy, home appliances, schools-.our imagination is the limit. Two weeks ago, Cisco launched the global Intelligent Urbanization initiative from Bangalore and signed a MoU with the local government to develop a roadmap for an intelligent and sustainable Bangalore City. Any one who has visited Bangalore will know that it is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. From the garden city of the yore, it has transitioned to the IT capital of India. The transition has left many scars in its way -the cities infrastructure is bursting at its seams as it struggles to cope with growth. As the Chief Minister of the state mentioned at the launch, the city has grown from a population of 4 million people in 2001 to 8 million in 2008. Over 4 million vehicles ply on the roads of Bangalore, suspect on the same roads meant to hold a million.Bangalore is only symptomatic of a larger malaise faced by India and the world. Over 29% of India’s billion population lives in urban India, international trends indicate that a nation hits an inflection point in urban population growth when it breaches the 25% mark. Therefore, what we are seeing today is just the tip of the ice berg. Around the world, over 500 million people will be urbanized in the next five years. One hundred cities of 1 million-plus citizens will be created by 2025. And the resulting environmental impact will be significant; already the top 20 megacities use 75 percent of the world’s energy. The need to sustainably balance social, economic and environmental issues is more urgent than ever before.Intelligent Urbanization enables us to enhance the quality of life for citizens, unlock productivity in areas such as public services and city management and least foster sustainable growth. It’s estimated that a city of 5 million people build on intelligent network could generate US$15 billion revenue, achieve 9.5% GDP and create 375,000 jobs and bring 30% energy efficiency within 20 years!Creating world class physical infrastructure has been a bane for countries such as India. Today, we have the opportunity to leapfrog to the future and build intelligent cities of the future. The good news is that it much more economical and faster to build an information highway than the traditional highway! Even better news is that Government’s around the world are waking up to this opportunity.Slumdog Millionaire is all about triumph of human spirit against great adversity -an intelligent urbanized world will be triumph for a billion people in their quest for better living -let’s make it happen!