Urban Pakistan & Technology Utilization Today

By Hashmi, Jamal | Economic Review, June 2013 | Go to article overview

Urban Pakistan & Technology Utilization Today


Hashmi, Jamal, Economic Review


Urban planning (urban, city, and town planning) is a technical and political process concerned with the control of the use of land and design of the urban environment, including transportation networks, to guide and ensure the orderly development of settlements and communities. It concerns itself with research and analysis, strategic thinking, architecture, urban design, public consultation, policy recommendations, implementation and management. ("Urban Planning Theory since 1945"--Nigel Taylor, 2007)

Unfortunately, such structured and organized approach to development was not the standard in the past due to many reasons (amongst them technology limitations) to solicit feedback and organize it for this purpose. However, this is changing with the emerging technology enabled urban generation where we would like to participate in urban design and development if given an opportunity.

This and many other such applications are possible today in a very positive and engaging manner as I will demonstrate shortly. But first let's look at some very impacting statistics.

Potential of Infrastructure

* Pakistan has 5.7Mil fixed Land-lines and 123+ Mil mobile phone subscribers (7th highest in the world) or a teledensity approaching 70%.

* SMS based services like ECP 8300 have surged with elections and reflect an engagement model which will continue to grow post elections.

* Population is exceeding 185 Million people and Pakistan is estimated to become the most populous Muslim Country by 2030, surpassing Indonesia as per most projections.

* Burgeoning youth population with 56% population between 15-54 years.

* Karachi is one of the fastest growing mega cities in the world while overall Pakistan has 9 cities with population exceeding 1 Million people.

* Pakistan's rate of urbanization was 36% in 2010 (source CIA Factbook) with projected growth rate of 3.1% per annum. This easily extrapolates to over 50% living in Urban areas in the next decade.

For urban areas, superimpose these with the following additional aspects:

* Migrations & Suburbanization: Prime example is Karachi where the population continues to explode since independence and people from across the country continue to migrate to the cities for jobs and opportunities. From cities there is a trend of external migration (albeit very small percentage but nonethe less). Even if these people return they rarely return to the rural areas and intra migrate amongst the cities. This drives the expectations of certain base level of infrastructure (bridges, roads, sanitation, clean water, electricity, schools, security etc.). For low income people the migration is in steps, from Kachi Abadis--slums--out lying areas--main population centers as they engage in the system at large within the cities. Again, 'extended' Karachi is far bigger today than even in the 90s. This is suburbanization, yet we expect cell-phones to work and infrastructure to deliver basic amenities in these cropping offshoot areas.

* The Rat Race Economics: As cities grow and the economics of living impacts, it is becoming imperative in Pakistan also that increasing a one bread winner household cannot support sustained living in decent urban localities for a large swath of the population. An updated survey [(PSLM) SURVEY 2004] is underway to identify the latest impact of this by Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. Women have to go and work if quality of life is to be maintained and this is driving that we need the urban conveniences from frozen foods to fast foods to internet based or price based services which take over our traditional responsibilities and outsources to someone to get them ready for us and we just consume whilst spending the least time on it.

* Transparency & Information: We want to know things immediately, find locations and have friends opinions and inputs online to discuss from fashion to services to politics to religion. …

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