Isocarp Congress Paper
By Amit Prothi
(Architect, Regional Planner Landscape Architect)
(Physical Planner, Landscape Architect)
Sameer Khanna (HR Manager, IT Company)
Information Technology invades India!
Parallel session 1: Cyberspace and loss of Concentration
" The information society is on its way. A digital revolution is triggering structural changes comparable to last century’s industrial revolution, with correspondingly high economic stakes. The process cannot be stopped and will lead eventually to a knowledge based economy" or so believe some thinkers.
IT has, in the last five odd years, completely revolutionised the fields of communication in the world and in India it has changed the way of life.
How is the Indian psyche coping with the advent of the ‘Information Technology Culture’?
Beam me up Scotty!!!!!!!!!!!! (Well!! We seem to be determined to realising our Star Trek dreams and not too far in the future!)
The opportunity for the entrepreneurs to have business transactions abroad without always having to be physically present; for the students to be exposed to the host of education and work related opportunities all over the world; for the home bound to conduct the tedious day to day affairs through e- shopping, e-banking etc. and for all to be able communicate with the nears and dears all over the world owes much to the advanced communications.
Not only has this advent of IT eased communications, but if the advertising hoardings are anything to go by, provided a means of employment to many. The IT revolution has completely reversed conventional employment trends. With high turnovers over shorter time periods, the pay back capacity of projects has increased manifold. As a result of which a trend has begun that may acquire alarming proportions whereby there has been a definite bias observed in the students towards IT related fields. This having continued for a couple of years is already exhibiting its negative influence on the future prospects of other conventional professions.
A series of questions have already begun plaguing the Urban Planners in India and are borne out of the current trends of a multi cultural society being taken over by the fervour of the singular Information technology culture.
"Digital technology now symbolises where the world culture is heading." Reports produced in the G7 nations "express…that digital technology will continue its rapid growth and penetration of all spheres of life, that it will help economic growth, that communication networks are its most distinct manifestation and that these will be a positive force in maintaining democratic regulation of societies."
The Indian cities are, at present in the process of undergoing the spatial changes that are borne out of the IT revolution.
So great is the influence of IT that the various politically, physically, culturally, linguistically distinct regions of the country are preparing to or have already adopted IT as a means for smooth governance.
State Government of Andhra Pradesh (of which Hyderabad is the capital) is pioneering the use of IT in governance by introducing citizen oriented schemes relating to transport infrastructure, registration of deeds etc. Gujarat government has expressed its intension to set up 1500 information kiosks in collaboration with private sector. By 2001, the state of Haryana (with an agrarian oriented economy) is set upon adopting e- governance practices. The Karnataka state (of which Bangalore is the capital city) has an ambitious strategy of taking IT to the masses. In Kerala a project to record demographic information of the citizens is envisaged.
In Madhya Pradesh, 21 rural cyber cafes have been established, each caters to 20,000-30,000 population. In Maharashtra (of which Bombay is the capital some major infrastructure and tax related projects have incorporated the use of IT. Punjabis preparing to adopt Geographical Information System for developing an exhaustive database related to the agrarian sector. Government of Rajasthan is in the process of developing an information system for developing of wholesale grain markets.
Tamil Nadu (with Chennai as its capital) is paying emphasis on developing IT services in the local language.
What is the transformation in the urban growth centres, as envisaged by spatial planners, that has been catalysed by the IT rage?
The population growth trends forecast for our country depict that by 2021, 41% of the total population equaling about 550 million people would be living in urban areas. Of these urban inhabitants three fourths would be residing in Class I cities and metropolises. This latter trend, is expected to be further spurred by the arrival of the IT age.
Some studies show that " …some ways in which digital technology will influence urban living-…. may be modest in the short term. In the longer term there may well be a change in the way cities are inhabited and designed.". It may be worthwhile to trace this process of change or metamorphosis of the Indian City as a result of the advent of the Information Society through the study of the stages of its transformation. The changing urban forms of Delhi (Gurgaon), Hyderabad and Bangalore offer this opportunity with Bangalore having been exposed to the maximum changes.
Each of these cities has a distinct cultural identity in three geographically distinct zones (Two being in the south and one in the North of the country) with their own sense of place. What is interesting here is that the pressure of being part of an Information Age has resulted in each of these cities moving towards an ‘extended urban form’. Some thinkers feel that "such trends (increasing influence of ICT) do not herald the demise of large cities, they do often have clear implications for urban form. Through their support for ‘extended complexity’ over worldwide systems of cities, ……… linkages tend to facilitate the development of ‘extended urban regions ‘, rather than traditional compact cities. With their polycentric ‘constellations’ of centres, distributed across large areas, such urban regions are becoming the norm."
At the macro level or city level, this trend is gradually dotting the Indian urban (predominantly metropolitan, at present) landscape. Thus the emergence of the " cyber city"– a township that houses the core of the software sector in a city. This may take the form of Whitefield city at Bangalore, Millenium Business Park at Mumbai, Tidal Park at Chennai or the High tech city at Hyderabad. What is common between these is their aim to provide world class facilities for working and residing in these cities as "constellations" to the main urban centre. These cities or sub cities are commonly referred to as " cyber city’, "smart city" " smart city" or a high tech city with any other nomenclature which in its Indianised version at Hyderabad is called " Cyberabad".
Does this lead to a presupposition that cities far removed in space and physical and socio-cultural context, in the IT age, will end up with similar urban form? How can one anticipate their rate and direction of change? Can equality be achieved through the technological revolution? What is the form of the urban settlements in the Indian cities of the future?
In the Indian metropolises, IT industry has been observed to be reorganising the socio economic and thus the physical and cultural basis of the city. In Bangalore, The IT onslaught began around the early 1990’s. There are apart from the city centre three areas have been demarcated for the software industry, the largest being the Electronics City and the Singapore Technology Park near the Airport. These are concentrated towards the east and South east of the city. An International Airport along with high income housing are other consequences of the IT revolution..
It may be interesting to note that the recent trend has initiated a shift from the cities of Bombay, Bangalore, Pune to cities like Hyderabad for concentration of the software industry.
This seems to have been propelled by the factors such as the cost of manpower is 20-30% lower in Hyderabad as compared to Bombay and Bangalore. Also the turnover ratios of employees is 30% more.
Though the IT industry discovered this city later than the others did but vast trained human resource is definitely propelling the shift. Hyderabad has one of the largest numbers of Public Research and Development institutions in the world, which the Infotech industry has just discovered.
Hence the obvious decision on the government’s part to develop the high tech city. What is interesting in the location of the city is that it is places in proximity of one of the posh areas of the city. To cater to an expected 1 million population, Cyberabad is being equipped with dedicated high speed data communication facility, uninterrupted power supply, centralised air conditioning, dedicated telecom services and many other high tech facilities. The existing road to the high tech city is being developed as an expressway connecting to the airport to ensure minimum travel time.
Its development on the lines of a high-class residential neighbourhood with top-level infrastructure facilities is being considered as a positive impetus for the city of Hyderabad inspite of the high economic investments.
This is an interesting trend to study. Being involved with development and construction projects in each of the three cities -Banglore, Hyderabad and Delhi it is observed that the IT processes and demands have had a direct bearing on the planning and design brief for each project. In each of the above mentioned cities the changing urban form and the rate of change requires immediate attention on the part of Physical Planners in order to plan for what is to come. With enclaves emerging on the periphery of these cities to cater to the needs of this IT boom there is an interdependency of the roles enacted by the physical planner and the IT Manager/Professional. With newer and more complicated questions emerging before the Physical Planner this may just be heralding a period where imagination may be considered as the only limitation.
"Radical democratic ideal of an Information Society popularised by utopian visions may turn out to be a myth. Urban societies are becoming more unequal, not less unequal at the intra urban, inter urban and international scales. ……….these inequalities influence the ability of people to participate in any meaningful fashion within increasingly information based societies."
With the government strategising to put our country on the world map as a leading IT power and hence projecting the rate of PC penetration to 1 in 50 people from the 1998 ratio of 1 in every 500 people. IT penetration in rural areas Government has constituted a working group on Information Technology for the masses in May 2000.
"…..(Technological empowerment) extends……..urban services into more distant hinterlands. It allows for action at a distance and remote control from cities, allowing them to extend their domination over more and more distant places. This is especially important given the intense uncertainities, thrown up by the volatility, velocity and unpredictability of the global economy."
Availability of IT –its affordability and accessibility Its potential in education and learning- distance learning, information dissemination experience sharing, video conferencing virtual organisation, virtual classroom virtual entertainment
Is Real space giving way to virtual space? Are Physical Planners to be replaced by Space Managers/Space Technologists? What are the envisaged methods of spatial organisation in the future?
…..the ‘time-space choreography’ of everyday life is no longer confined to urban physical spaces. …… (in some) cities, it seems, that public space, where a range of different social groups interact, are being lost. Replacing such spaces are secure, privatised consumer spaces (malls), a growth of electronic communications from fortified homes (in secure enclave communities)….homes could become dissociated from neighbourhoods and cities and still not be lonely isolated places. Such trends towards cocooning are being encouraged by growing fear of crime and incursion..." "The Urban environment is now being simulated in virtual space. Design techniques based on digital technology are bringing the built and the images of the unbuilt closer together in space and time. The future arrives earlier than it used to and with it comes the danger………..in a process of virtualisation, the simulacra that pour from screens are becoming the reality of social and political life………the power of the simulacrum and the dangers created when society cannot contain the forces created by technology.
The trends observed in the emerging cyber cities indicate that there is a distinct focus on developing socio- culturally independent cores with a close knit work-home relationship, thus leading to a spatial pattern of seemingly physically distinct spaces yet closely interrelated through high tech communication facilities. The cultural fabric would be concentrated in the interstitial spaces between these introverted cores as these within them would be fairly uniform in character but varying tremendously when compared to the traditional space they have been carved out of.
Main list of References:
1.Technocities(1999); edited by John Downey and Jim Mcguigan. Saga. London
2.Sista, Vishwanath (2001); An overview of Hyderabad's Cyberabad- technical paper published in the Journal of the 49th National Town and country Planners congress, India.
3.Meshram,D.L; Chotani, M.L (2001);IT for urban development Planning: Issues and imperatives- technical paper published in the Journal of the 49th National Town and country Planners congress, India.