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close this bookThe Japanese Experience in Technology (UNU, 1990, 282 pages)
close this folderPart 2. Case-studies
close this folder5. Urban society and technology
View the documentThe city and technology
View the documentThe primate city
View the documentThe inhabitants of Tokyo
View the documentFormation of the new middle class
View the documentUrban life
View the documentA provincial city case-study: Traditional technology in Kanazawa

The city and technology

It is important to include the problems of cities when examining the problems of technology transfer and development. It has been the academic practice to treat these three areas separately - though they are interrelated in complex ways - following the tendency to reduce problems to the level of individual disciplines. To remedy this, we have formulated the themes of "urban society and technology" and "rural society and technology" in examining individual sectors of industrial technology. Concentrating on these problems is perhaps more relevant to development than whether we have obtained sufficient results to solve them directly.

The urban problem is today a global problem, encompassing both the North and the South, but the problem differs in content and structure between the two areas. The South faces more complex and difficult problems in employment, transportation, housing, health, social security, and similar issues. The measures needed to solve these problems cannot be the same for each country. In the context of development - exemplified by such problems as the world's highest rents and land prices - Japan has solved these problems only partially; nevertheless, a few illustrations from the Japanese case may be of interest in our dialogue.

The relation between the city and technology in the context of development is our concern for the following, related reasons:

1. Technology and its transfer are essential for development.

2. Modern technologies, hard and soft, are mutually interrelated, each tending to concentrate in places where related technologies and supporting services are available.

3. The city is where technology, service. and information are centred. In other words, where technology, service, and information have been centred and accumulated is or will become a city.

Modern industry has developed and given rise to new cities. However, industrialization and modernization are defined, their processes are sure to generate urbanization, which is a prerequisite for industrialization and modernization that will, in turn, increase urbanization - as the Japanese experience demonstrates.

For example, such public services as transportation and electricity, essential for the modern city, will become available where a certain level of urban population has been reached. Developing countries have arrived at the stage of urbanization that constitutes a prerequisite for modernization and industrialization. Therefore, if priorities are set and wise technological choices and timely transfers of additional technology are continually made, these countries may anticipate success in their work to solve the problems they are likely to face.

Awareness of the particular phase of urbanization in which a country finds itself may be useful in making plans for that country. Urbanization has three phases:

1. Population expansion in existing cities.
2. Increase in the number of medium- and small-scale cities.
3. Development of the division of functions among cities and the nation wide formation of hierarchies to parallel the levels of these functions.

These phases correspond to the process of development, starting when the technology and the organizations for technology are first scattered, moving to when they are brought into some regional concentration, and finally to when they are integrated into a single entity.

In terms of this framework, many developing countries have completed the first phase, but not sufficiently the second and third phases. This means that the national network of technology in each does not yet cover the entire country and that the level of social integration is not high and the social structure is not as solid as it should be. Further, because of the rich diversity of local culture, the network for administration (national bureaucratization) does not function efficiently. This can, of course, prove both advantageous and disadvantageous to development.

In this context, by the middle of the nineteenth century, Japan had a network of more than 200 cities with populations ranging from 10,000 to I million. The functional hierarchy among cities had been completed by this time, and they were connected by all-weather roads and water-borne traffic. The Meiji Restoration included the reorganization of more than 240 small administrative units into 50 larger ones, and the new central government could recruit bureaucrats for administration not only from the ax-samurai class but also from other classes. This guaranteed it a cadre of leadership.