A crowded city is the sign of a good thing for Indonesians

A traffic jam in the increasingly crowded streets of Jakarta. Image: Getty, December 2013.

Every September, a month after the Eid holiday exodus that nearly empties the city, Jakarta returns to its normal crowded self. Afterwards, though, the Indonesian capital has around 68,000 more residents. 

Every year thousands of people move to Jakarta with the return flow of the holiday exodus. These migrations are often reported negatively in the media, who would mix up the term "migration" with "urbanisation".

Like many countries, Indonesia has an annual tradition of travelling to one’s home town during religious holidays. In Indonesia, it is called mudik. This year, around 3.6m people traveled from Jakarta to their home towns in Java and other parts of Indonesia, according to a survey by the University of Indonesia Demographic Institute.

Mudik reflects the strength of social cohesion amid the change towards a post-modern industrial society. During mudik, the social and geographic distance between groups of different professions and economic status become shorter. Almost everyone, from the bank CEO to the streetside vendor, goes on mudik.

When the holiday is over, they return to Jakarta. Some bring their relatives or friends with them.

The media often describe the process of urbanisation in Indonesia only through the phenomenon of new migrants to Jakarta. But this is an incomplete representation of urbanisation. Migration can be part of urbanisation, but it isn't always.

Urbanisation means the changing way of life from rural to urban living. It also means the changing characteristics of an area from having qualities of village life to city life.

Urbanisation does not always entail someone moving from the village to the city. Pondok Cina, a sub-district next to the University of Indonesia’s Depok campus on the outskirts of Jakarta, was once a rural village area. Now, the population density has increased to more than 5,000 people per square kilometre.

Less than a quarter of the residents farm. And it has urban facilities. Pondok Cina has turned into an urban village.

From an economic perspective, urbanisation is often linked with progress and economic development in an area. Therefore, it is concentrated in a number of locations, especially in big cities and more specifically in national capitals.

Young people looking for work move to Jakarta, which is booming with new constructions. Image: EPA/MAST IRHAM.

The danger of misrepresentation

When people understand urbanisation wrongly, they can make wrong conclusions, and policymakers might create bad policies. Many city administrators say they want to prevent urbanisation. They actually mean they want to prevent migration from rural areas to the city.

Before Indonesia's president Joko Widodo became governor of Jakarta, the city administration held yearly ID raids on bus terminals after the Eid exodus. Those who don’t have IDs would be bused back to cities in Central or East Java.

Jakarta has stopped the practice, but other cities still do it. Almost always, the poor become the target of the raids. Their social and physical mobility are confined.

Migration as a symptom of urbanisation should be seen as a positive thing. It happens naturally and it is normal for an area that is undergoing urbanisation.

Jakarta is one of the cities in Indonesia with rapid progress and economic development. Moving to big cities such as Jakarta is a rational choice for young people: those who move to big cities usually have better skills and education levels than those who stay in the villages.

Jakarta’s nearly 10m registered residents include 4m lifetime migrants, according to the 2010 census. These are people who were born outside Jakarta, but live in the city at the time of the census.

According to the 2010 census, Jakarta had just 3.5m lifetime migrants. This means that 500,000 people have moved to Jakarta in 10 years.

The movement of people from villages to the city is the biggest factor that influences the urbanisation process. Often people from the villages move temporarily to the city to stay for less than six months. These new migrants come to the city and live with family, relatives or friends. They look for additional income through off-farm employment.

People living in villages often earn their income from traditional farming, which would not be enough to sustain their lives. Migration from village to cities for work should be seen as a mechanism to distribute wealth from the cities to the village.

Urbanisation in Indonesia is most obvious in Jakarta; but other cities are changing, too. Regions that have high urbanisation rates such as North Sumatera and Riau have higher GDPs than those with low urbanisation rates. There is a positive correlation between urbanisation rate, economic progress and population growth.

The urban population in Indonesia has increased from 14.8 per cent in 1971, to 49.8 per cent in 2010. By 2025, around 68 per cent of the population will be living in cities; by 2045, it'll be 82 per cent.

Mudik perpetuates the urbanisation process in Indonesian villages. A couple of years from now, people could find their once-rural village has transformed into a small city. The Conversation

Chotib Hasan is a researcher with the Demographic Institute at the University of Indonesia. He does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

 
 
 
 

Smart cities need to be more human, so we’re creating Sims-style virtual worlds

The Sims 2 on show in 2005. Image: Getty.

Huge quantities of networked sensors have appeared in cities across the world in recent years. These include cameras and sensors that count the number of passers by, devices to sense air quality, traffic flow detectors, and even bee hive monitors. There are also large amounts of information about how people use cities on social media services such as Twitter and foursquare.

Citizens are even making their own sensors – often using smart phones – to monitor their environment and share the information with others; for example, crowd-sourced noise pollution maps are becoming popular. All this information can be used by city leaders to create policies, with the aim of making cities “smarter” and more sustainable.

But these data only tell half the story. While sensors can provide a rich picture of the physical city, they don’t tell us much about the social city: how people move around and use the spaces, what they think about their cities, why they prefer some areas over others, and so on. For instance, while sensors can collect data from travel cards to measure how many people travel into a city every day, they cannot reveal the purpose of their trip, or their experience of the city.

With a better understanding of both social and physical data, researchers could begin to answer tough questions about why some communities end up segregated, how areas become deprived, and where traffic congestion is likely to occur.

Difficult questions

Determining how and why such patterns will emerge is extremely difficult. Traffic congestion happens as a result of personal decisions about how to get from A to B, based on factors such as your stage of life, your distance from the workplace, school or shops, your level of income, your knowledge of the roads and so on.

Congestion can build locally at pinch points, placing certain sections of the city’s transport networks under severe strain. This can lead to high levels of air pollution, which in turn has a severe impact on the health of the population. For city leaders, the big question is, which actions – imposing congestion charges, pedestrianising areas or improving local infrastructure – would lead to the biggest improvements in both congestion, and public health.

We know where – but why? Image: Worldoflard/Flickr/creative commons.

The irony is, although modern technology has the power to collect vast amounts of data, it doesn’t always provide the means to analyse it. This means that scientists don’t have the tools they need to understand how different factors influence the way cities function and grow. Here, the technique of agent-based modelling could come to the rescue.

The simulated city

Agent-based modelling is a type of computer simulation, which models the behaviour of individual people as they move around and interact inside a virtual world. An agent-based model of a city could include virtual commuters, pedestrians, taxi drivers, shoppers and so on. Each of these individuals has their own characteristics and “rules”, programmed by researchers, based on theories and data about how people behave.

After combining vast urban datasets with an agent-based model of people, scientists will have the capacity to tweak and re-run the model, until they detect the phenomena they’re wanting to study – whether it’s traffic jams or social segregation. When they eventually get the model right, they’ll be able to look back on the characteristics and rules of their virtual citizens, to better understand why some of these problems emerge, and hopefully begin to find ways to resolve them.

For example, scientists might use urban data in an agent-based model to better understand the characteristics of the people who contribute to traffic jams – where they have come from, why they are travelling, what other modes of transport they might be willing to take. From there, they might be able to identify some effective ways of encouraging people to take different routes or modes of transport.


Seeing the future

Also, if the model works well in the present time, then it might be able to produce short-term forecasts. This would allow scientists to develop ways of reacting to changes in cities, in real time. Using live urban data to simulate the city in real-time could help to inform the managers of key services during periods of major disruption, such as severe weather, infrastructure failure or evacuation.

Using real-time data adds another layer of complexity. But fortunately, other scientific disciplines have also been making advances in this area. Over decades, the field of meteorology has developed cutting-edge mathematical methods, which allow their weather and climate models to respond to new weather data, as they arise in real time.

The ConversationThere’s a lot more work to be done before these methods from meteorology can be adapted to work for agent-based models of cities. But if they’re successful, these advancements will allow scientists to build city simulations which are driven by people - and not just the data they produce.

Nick Malleson, Associate Professor of Geographical Information Systems, University of Leeds and Alison Heppenstall, Professor in Geocomputation, University of Leeds.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.