Monday, July 19, 2010

Be proud of your city

Be proud of your city

A global study boosts the idea of Bangalore but creates a route map for big, fat civic improvements

Maitreyee Boruah. Bangalore



There's good news and disconcerting news. For the cheerleaders of road-widening and quickie urbanisation, here comes a list of inspiring guidelines for Bangalore's future. Wince before you widen.
Let's fight the Monday morn blues by looking at the upbeat aspects first. Bangalore, if the plain truth be retold, is playing a pivotal role in the way the West perceives India. The city, says a study conducted by a Harvard professor, shows how an urban cluster can bring prosperity to a poor country.
There's little the city doesn't already have. It's a world leader in IT; it makes the most intelligent investment in education; it has the best minds networking on innovative ideas; it is also home to the rich and famous. Bangalore is directly responsible for the development of India, says the study, Making Sense of Bangalore.
Now come the big bloated concerns. The author of the report, urban economist Edward Glaeser, says we must rid the city of its infrastructural weaknesses asap: congestion, unclean water and sewage. Don't feel bad about it. Feel guilty. Feel sorry that, as an informed citizen, you haven't been able to influence the influentials.

The IT success story
Blast the blues. Step into a brighter sunny Monday by reading Glaeser's tech profiling. Bangalore's success mantra lies in its commitment to new industries, says his study. Leading the way is IT with bellwethers Wipro Technologies and Infosys re-imaging Brand Bangalore. In a nutshell: high quality software at low cost.
With IT's growth, people have grown too. "Real incomes grew by 73% between 1998 and 2005. This growth was much faster than the growth of India as a whole. In 1998, Bangalore incomes were 24% higher than the Indian average. Today, Bangalore incomes are nearly 70% higher than the Indian average," the report states.

A good science base
After IT, it has to be education. Institutes like IISc (Indian Institute of Science), play a very important role in making Bangalore one of India's top cities. Investment in education is the most important means of enabling city-led growth. Engineering is the most preferred choice and Bangalore's success is a reminder that education is the most important economic development policy a state can have, says the study.

A networking capital
Bangalore is an ideas hub. The city's success has come from its human capital. After all, the urban advantage at sharing ideas is far more valuable when people have more ideas to share. "Certainly, it is possible to write code on an isolated hill-top, but the writer doesn't learn much in isolation. Instead, ingenuity is maximised is by working together and then bringing the knowledge of one company to a new employer," Glaeser writes.

A city of millionaires
There are 10,000 millionaires in Bangalore. The per capita income in the urban centre is twice that of the Indian average. Yet, the city certainly also faces major challenges. "Parts of Bangalore do indeed feel like a prosperous Silicon Valley office park, but the city is still in India, and poor people will inevitably flock to an economic engine," says the study.

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