Infrastructure Development - An imperative for Inclusive Growth
Naresh Wadhwa, President & Country Manager, Cisco India and SAARC
India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world today. A matter of pride indeed, except that this economic boom appears to be in distress without an infrastructure to match. Everything from good roads and modern transport to reliable power and clean water are in short supply. This infrastructure deficit is not only coming in the way of achieving prosperity but is also widening the gap between the rich and poor, potentially destabilizing the nation.
So, what does it take to build reliable infrastructure? Very simply, it calls for a mix of political will, well channeled investments and technology innovation.
Historically, investment in infrastructure has provided a fillip to strong economic development. The US and Western Europe are examples of solid infrastructure helping to lead the world economy, by encouraging innovation, allowing sustained development and inclusive growth. Our counterparts in South Asia, including China, Japan and South Korea, have an edge over us in terms of infrastructure, public amenities and overall quality of life. For India to get there and ensure sustainability, it is important to focus on inclusive growth.
Challenges in India:
Apart from being a 62 year old democracy with over a billion people, India is a land of vast, disparate geographic and socio-economic conditions. The country's demographic make-up is in a state of flux, with widespread migration from rural to urban areas. According to a 2007 UN State of the World Population report, by 2030, 40.76% of India's population would be living in urban areas compared to about 28.4% in 2007.
A host of infrastructural problems plague our urban and rural pockets - bad roads, traffic congestion, unreliable and crowded public transport, erratic supply of electricity and water are a few. Issues such as lack of access to healthcare, education, banking facilities, internet and mobile connectivity also increase rural migration to urban areas.
How then, do we enable a system that will provide a better quality of life irrespective of these challenges?
The way out:
A common problem with most Indian infrastructure projects is the lack of anticipation of future need and capacity. As a result, they prove to be inadequate a couple of years after being commissioned. Investments and resources earmarked for such projects must be channelized properly for successful implementation. An effective way to do that is to implement projects through Public Private Partnerships (PPPs). These partnerships help the government and companies share costs, risks, rewards and ensure that funds are available for construction and maintenance. They infuse efficiency through competition, provide scope for innovation and enable implementation of international best practices. Mr. Naresh Wadhwa, President & Country Manager, Cisco India and SAARC
Adoption of technology is a key investment that will determine the future of our public infrastructure. Information and communications technology (ICT) can be used to enable solutions over a common platform and help in efficient planning and management of public utilities such as power, water, broadband, internet telephony and transport. This will in turn improve their cost, access, and quality. Cities and communities of the future can become sustainable by embracing smart regulation and strategic public private partnerships with technology as an enabler.
A case in point is the development of 'Lavasa City,' India's first complete e-city. Part of Cisco's Smart+Connected Communities vision, it is based on the premise that connected communities running on networked information can achieve economic, social and environmental sustainability.
Technology can also help reduce the disparity between rural and urban India. The Common Service Centers (CSCs) are an example of how technology can be used for extending services like primary healthcare, banking and education to the rural population. Increasing broadband penetration and using 'smart broadband' - integrated, fixed, mobile, and Wi-Fi broadband can help to provide the best of education, healthcare and eGovernance facilities. Better planning, foresight and judicious use of technology will help India to achieve inclusive growth, sustain it and get closer to becoming an economic superpower.