Smart Cities: What can India learn from Korea?
The ambitious vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to set up 100 smart cities across the country has opened up a gamut of business opportunities for the global market in each aspect of planning, project execution and management of such high-tech cities. As Modi said, "Cities in the past were built on river banks, they are now built along highways. But in the future, they will be built based on availability of optic fiber networks and next-generation infrastructure."
The project has opened up the entry opportunity for companies across the globe with a market in India and provided them with a platform to export their services.
Even as a large number of countries have evinced their interest and committed to participate in India’s growth story, South Korea has already started the groundwork to develop smart cities in the country and encash the infrastructural opportunities India is providing to the global Inc.
Our Cover Story throws light on the initiatives being taken by Korea to develop smart cities in India. It also forced us to introspect what India can learn from Korea with regard to infrastructural development.
South Korea, which metamorphosed itself from a war-torn, backward agrarian country into a high-tech export-driven powerhouse in the space of just five decades, is a perfect example of what Modi is trying to do in India. Like India, South Korea is highly dependent on the import of natural resources including crude oil and essential minerals. Still, despite its supply drawbacks, the country has become the world’s 13th largest economy, according to the International Monetary Funds 2014 ranking.
In fact, India can learn a lot from Korea, which has recently built a futuristic city – Songdo. It has been touted as the world’s first smart city because of the way it has been conceptualised and designed with the use of state-of-the-art technologies. Songdo, which is developed on barren land, has been created to solve the problem of rapid urbanisation, which is also India’s major challenge.
However, the big question is: whether smart cities in South Korea and other developed nations can be duplicated in a country like India, where even in metropolises running water is available for just two hours daily, dirty water flows in open drains in cramped neighbourhoods, wells and lakes convert into garbage dumps and illegal buildings and slums dot the cities?
And the answer is, why not? If Korea can build itself from scratch to become a nation with as many as 50 smart cities, why not India which has many more resources, advanced technology and huge manpower power? The world has opened up its arms to India and now it is up to us as to how we make the best use of them to raise our living standards.
With the rapid pace of urbanization taking place, it is just a matter of a few years when India would no longer live in its villages but would live in its towns. And policymakers can no longer look away.