Is physical infrastructure actually necessary for globally competitive cities in the 21st Century?


Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on November 4, 2015  /  0 Comments

The original plan was that we would showcase our big data for urban development research at the LBO-LBR Infrastructure Summit that started today. But it was not to be. Neither I nor Sriganesh Lokanathan could be present on the second day and our work was considered too nitty-gritty for the “high-level” discussion on Day 1. So I had to stretch to find something of relevance from the inaugural session that I moderated.

One of the panelists kept saying that people appear to have forgotten this is 2015. Why bother about physical infrastructure when we can connect digitally? If he said this over a video feed (something we used at the LIRNEasia@5 conference in 2009) I would have taken him more seriously. But instead I recounted the difficulties we had in attracting IT firms to the Malabe IT Park in 2002-04). Everyone wanted the clients to have easy access to the airport and Malambe then was unsellable. Millennium IT which was the first major firm to relocate to Malambe in around 2001 was awash in complaints and had to set up a satellite office in Colombo. Now that Malambe is close to an interchange on the circular expressway, it should easier to promote it (but really, the last link from Kadawatha to Peliyagoda needs to be completed).

I guess this also connected to questions from the audience about how cities could generate wealth. For that, telecom is not enough. The complementary physical infrastructure is also needed.

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