Third World City in the Information Age

Third World City in the Information Age

D. Sinha
Copyright: © 2007 |Pages: 6
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59140-789-8.ch236
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It could be one of the great paradoxes of history that the third world continues to urbanize itself at a faster pace than the developed world. At the same time, third-world cities, inevitably at the cost of the rural areas, continue to play the game of one-upmanship in proclaiming themselves the best possible hub of the information and communication technology (ICT). Such a phenomenon is natural not only because in the third world the cities are the privileged sites or spaces in which any new and progressive process or event is supposed to take root but also because the cities, the firm favorites of the policymaking elite of the third world, are supposed to be the privileged channels in the trickle-down process of development. In this process, the hinterland (the suburbs and the rural areas, mostly in that order) fall behind. Thus, a veteran scholar of third-world urbanization, T. G. McGee (1971), described third world cities either as “enclaves” (spaces meant for the elite’s games surrounded by “hostile peasantry”) or as “beachheads” (centers of modernization and catalysts for economic growth) (p. 13). However, cities in the third world are not monolithic entities enjoying exclusive occupation by elites and other privileged sections of society. Our real-life experience shows that third-world cities that are inhabited by nearly one-third of the world’s urban population provide classic and shocking contrasts in terms of playing host to affluent, powerful citizenry on the one hand and to their underprivileged, powerless counterparts—ordinary people (the middle-middle/lower-middle classes downward) on the other hand. The latter, at best, possess only the legal attributes of citizenship, and, at worst, they are devoid of even that to remain utterly marginalized if not pulverized. It is in this setting that the third-world city opens itself up to the information age and its concomitant: digital governance. This article limits itself to drawing attention to the fate of the third-world city caught in the vortex of the information age and the associated rhetoric of salvation. In the process, it reveals certain general indicative trends. It does not provide any fixed blueprint for immediate crisis solving, keeping in mind the variety that exists in third-world cities despite a substantial degree of commonality among them. However, it does endorse the view (Visvanathan, 2001) that to “understand … spaces being continually defined by development we need sharper tools for the analysis of symbolic space and the interrelationship between historical events and social phenomena, which bring space, time and culture together” (p.182).

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