Expanding Networks for the Urban Poor: Water and Telecommunications Services in Lima, Peru

Type Journal Article - Geoforum
Title Expanding Networks for the Urban Poor: Water and Telecommunications Services in Lima, Peru
Volume 39
Issue 6
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2008
Page numbers 1884-1896
URL https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Ana_Maria_Fernandez_Maldonado/publication/223264481_Expanding_n​etworks_for_the_urban_poor_Water_and_telecommunications_services_in_Lima_Peru/links/02e7e52b44780184​07000000.pdf
In many cities of the developing world, poor residents occupy land and build their dwellings before infrastructure is provided. Expanding the infrastructure networks for the poor is a long, expensive and complicated affair. Before the 1990s, the public sector was generally in charge of the basic services; but these services have been liberalized and, in many cases, privatized since then. In this new context, a relevant question is: have these reforms contributed to urban integration? Or, on the contrary, have they contributed to deepen urban fragmentation? This study presents the case of water and telecommunications services in Lima, Peru, the most contested and politically sensitive urban sectors. The objective is to test Graham and Marvin’s claims about the splintering of networked infrastructures expressed in Splintering Urbanism. The findings show that the reforms have improved the situation at aggregate level, but there is still no sustainable solution for the crucial dilemma of cities with high poverty restrictions: self financed network expansions versus service affordability. The diverging paths of the utilities reform in Lima illustrate that privatization is not the main issue in the discussion to expand the networks for the poor. The main conclusion is that sensible policies complemented with carefully targeted subsidies and continuous regulation can successfully provide water for all. Good governance practices at the urban level help to achieve this goal. Water and telecommunications in Lima also show that are no general solutions for the universalization of the services; each city is different and some sectors are much more complex and problematic than others. This demands careful and continuous technical and political consideration of the local circumstances to reform the utilities.

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