ConnectKaro: Making things happen
Bangalore |March 10
EMBARQ India's second annual conference brings hundreds of stakeholders in conversation with one another. The conference saw over 300 participants while thousands joined sessions online. Through 15 sessions across two action packed days, ConnectKaro brought together academics, students, bureaucrats and practitioners on a common platform to discuss how to make Indian cities more livable and sustainable. Set in Bangalore, one of India's fastest growing cities, ConnectKaro, thought through ideas to make Bangalore, more pedestrian and mass transit friendly.
The conversation at ConnectKaro was about making things happen. This iteration of ConnectKaro features two creative sessions where participants thought of ideas to change/better on the ground realities.
A highlight of the two day conference were two creative sessions at end of the first day- on Gender and Public Spaces and Bangalore Buses respectively. In the session on Bangalore Buses, Ashwin Prabhu and Arnab Roy of India gave an overview on the effective use of communications and marketing by public transit agencies. Mr Prabhu pointed that "the way big reforms are communicated to the public is important". The session involved brainstorming by three groups of 7-8 people each on the topics of user information, marketing and user education. Through the brainstorming sessions, the groups came up with interesting strategies and campaigns for information dissemination for the launch of the BMTC Big Bus network at various stages of the roll out of the project.
The session on Gender and Public Spaces began with Sonal Shah of EMBARQ India framing the context of cities being gendered by providing critical data on women’s travel patterns and limited access to public spaces. The participants sketched their experience of a public recreation space they visit often and their inputs were collated by dividing them into two groups of men and women. The collated information was presented by the moderators for the groups and distinct patterns were observed in how men and women experience public open space. Men’s concerns pertained to level of comfort and presence of amenities in public spaces. Women’s primary concern was about safety and their experience of the public space with respect to the five senses.
The biggest crowd puller of the conference was Gil Penalosa's presentation. In his keynote address on Non Motorized Transport on Day 2, Mr. Penalosa began with pointing out that walking and cycling should be the primary concern today; the largest public space available in any city is after all, the street itself. In his presentation, Mr. Penalosa, compared dull streets, which had not incorporated walking and cycling as activities and vibrant streets, which did and asked the audience about their preference. Needless to say, the audience chose the former. In talking about Ciclovia in Bogota, Mr. Penalosa pointed out that such initiatives help in changing the mindset of decision makers and citizens, pilot projects are a good way to sensitize and gain acceptance for sustainable causes. He pointed out that Ciclovia changed mindsets. It demonstrated that streets can have different uses apart from bicycling and walking while dignifying pedestrians and protecting cyclists. The key is to provide citizens with the infrastructure to access and fully enjoy public spaces. As Amit Bhatt, Strategy Head- Integrated Urban Transport, EMBARQ India while talking about Raahgiri Day in India pointed out, “If you give people safe infrastructure, they will come out and walk and cycle”.
Only in its second edition, ConnectKaro has already become an important event in the calendars of key stakeholders. With its emphasis on actionable ideas, ConnectKaro looks to gain more ground next year.