Time to revisit RISC — the development model that I proposed over 20 years ago. It was about helping the rural population develop so that they become urbanized. The solution to rural development is urbanization. The first step to urbanization is the development of rural people. That means providing them with services that help them increase their productivity.
A wonderful side-effect of blogging is that readers help you with your education. Long-time readers know of my obsession with urbanization as an instrument of development. So whenever an article on the importance of cities and urbanization appears in the popular media, I get a dozen emails from people telling me about it. One such piece is the NY Times magazine Dec 17th piece “A Physicist Solves the City” by Jonah Lehrer about Geoffrey West. Thanks to all who send me stuff to read and I sincerely appreciate your help with my continued education. Urbanization and cities matter to me, and so does my education.
Cities are the engines of growth. Therefore, a policy that promotes urbanization of the population is an indispensible instrument for economic growth and development. In the following TED Talk, Paul Romer, a world-class growth economist at Stanford, makes the case. Continue reading “Paul Romer: Charter Cities”
Urbanization of the population implies greater demand for housing in cities. There has to be a portfolio of housing options available for the diversity of people which constitute a city. I am familiar with the property prices in the San Francisco Bay area, one of the highest in the US. Even I get a sticker shock when I see the prices of housing in Mumbai. I cannot imagine how the poor manage to survive. Which partly explains why about half of Mumbai’s 11 million people live in slums.
Last week Saturday I was at the ISB in Hyderabad to attend a working group on urbanization. One of the most important components of urbanization is housing. At the ISB, Dhaval Monani is working on affordable housing and has plans in place for putting up low cost around 250 sft homes (on 450 sft land parcels) for around Rs 2 lakhs (or $4,000). They will be built around industrial areas which are often situated in the outskirts of cities. That’s an exciting project. Continue reading “Affordable Housing”
In a short article in SEED magazine, theoretical physicist and president of the Santa Fe Institute, Geoffrey West explains “why the future of humanity and the long-term sustainability of the planet are inextricably linked to the fate of our cities.”
One of the consistent themes of this blog has been that India should think big. My favorite quote in this context is from Daniel Burnham, the fabled Chicago architect who said that we should think big:
Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood and probably themselves will not be realized. Make big plans; aim high in hope and work, remembering that a noble, logical diagram once recorded will never die, but long after we are gone will be a living thing, asserting itself with ever-growing insistency. Remember that our sons and grandsons are going to do things that would stagger us. Let your watchword be order and your beacon beauty. Think big.
I strongly believe that the only way India can sustain its long-term economic growth is by unleashing and harnessing the creativity of its grassroots entrepreneurs, especially in rural areas. But here is the challenge: these grassroots inventions don’t scale up. Indeed, most rural innovation initiatives such as DesiCrew and grassroots inventions like Mitti Cool, however impressive they may be, are sadly limited in their impact to a local or regional market of a few hundred customers, and end up employing no more than a dozen workers in the local community. What is missing is a mechanism to cross-pollinate and scale up these bright ideas among India’s 250-million-strong agricultural community which lives scattered across more than 600,000 villages.