Are Cities in India Digital Yet?: Some Evidence

Are Cities in India Digital Yet?: Some Evidence

Varadharajan Sridhar (Sasken Communication Technologies, India) and Kala Seetharam Sridhar (Public Affairs Centre, India)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60960-601-5.ch004
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JEL Classification: L86, L96
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The world is becoming increasingly urbanized and digitized. More people both absolutely and in relative terms live in cities than ever before. More than half of the world’s population for the first time lives in cities. At the same time, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) enable people in urban areas to be connected to firms and institutions, especially the government for e-government services. It is our objective in this paper to enumerate factors that contribute to the digital readiness of cities from the extant literature and analyze data from large Indian cities to understand how well prepared along these factors.

Sridhar (2007) provides an overview of urbanization in India. Table 1 describes the size distribution of cities in various class sizes since the beginning of the century. At the beginning of the twentieth century, there was only one city with million plus population (hereafter referred to as a million-plus city), namely Calcutta, with a population of 1.5 million1. Bombay joined this league in 1911. In 1991, four metropolitan areas (Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Delhi) were the only mega cities (with population greater than five million), but by 2001, the number of mega cities had increased to six (with Bangalore and Hyderabad joining the league). This trend continued steadily. In 1991, there were 23 cities with a population of over one million (which accounted for 33 percent of the urban population), over 300 cities with a population ranging between 100,000 and a million, and over 4,000 towns (see Table 1). In 2001, the number of cities with million-plus population grew to 35 (housing 38 percent of the total urban population), with 14 of these 35 growing at higher than average rate during 1991-2001 (Lahiri-Dutt and Samanta, 2001). In 2001, the number of cities in the population size category of 100,000 to one million (class I cities) grew to 464 from only over 300 in 1991.

Table 1.
Size Distribution of India’s Cities: 1901-2001
Class IClass IIClass IIIClass IVClass VAll cities*

Source: Sridhar (2007).

* Note that all cities include cities in class sizes I-VI, columns 2-5 report only class sizes 1-V. The Census of India’s definition for various class sizes of cities is as follows: Class I: Population >100,000; Class II: Population of 50,000-99,999; Class III: Population of 20,000-49,999; Class IV: Population of 10,000-19,999; Class V: Population of 5,000-9,999; Class VI: Population <5,000.

Ψ In 1981, there was no census held in Assam due to disturbed conditions there. So while during 1901-71, and 1991-2001, the number of cities reported include those in Assam, in 1981, they exclude Assam. If the reader is interested in comparing the figures on various class size cities for the time period considered without Assam, they are available from the author upon request.

Δ In 1991, there was no census held in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) owing to disturbed conditions. So while during 1901-81 and in 2001, the number of cities includes those in J&K, the 1991 list of cities excludes those in J&K. The list of all towns separately for J&K for 1901-1981 and 2001 are available upon request from the author, should there be interest for purposes of comparison.

Γ The 2001 size distribution of cities is provisional, as this was still being finalized by the Census of India at the time this paper was revised. The size distribution of cities for 2001 has been computed by the author based on the list of towns and their populations available from the census at that time.

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