BENGALURU: Ten years ago, when Dominic McAllister came to Bengaluru from Seoul as a science and innovation counsellor, he recalls driving through fields from the new airport to get to the Bengaluru-Hyderabad highway.
“It was a very local sort of place with an international airport linked by country roads to the highway,” says the British Deputy High Commissioner Bengaluru, ahead of his move back to the United Kingdom.
That impression has changed considerably since his move to the city in 2015 – for his first posting here – with him coming to appreciate the frustrations early on, and realising that Bengaluru is an early adopter of innovation, ideas, and dynamism.
“In fact, the biggest challenge is going to be appreciating the reverse cultural issues. I have spent my whole career travelling around the world to different cultures, and the more different a culture is, the more interesting it is to look at,” says McAllister.
During his four-year stint here, McAllister launched several initiatives – developing capacity in urban governance, big data to improve public services, and even a clean air initiative as recently as last week.
“Everybody was saying, ‘Why are you launching a new initiative five days before you go, 10 days before you go?’ But the idea is that I am part of a big family here and it doesn’t matter whether I am here or not. The idea is that the partnership between the UK and India, the partnership between Karnataka and the UK, will go on,” he says about the Innovating for Clean Air (IfCA) project.
He admits that one of the things that he has been a little frustrated about is the acceptance of Bengalureans of the air quality here. “Bangalore, generally, has much better air quality than other big cities of similar size, but the levels we have are unacceptable in many other cities across the world. If London, for example, had the sort of pollution that Bangalore faces every day, there would be a lot of challenges to industry, to the government to try to improve the quality of air,” he says.
To tackle this, two projects are underway at the moment –the C-40 cities, a project between London and Bengaluru, and tapping the electrical vehicles space.
“Karnataka is one of the leading states looking at the launch of electrical vehicles across India, competing with Andhra Pradesh to be number one. That is a good initiative, and technologies are being developed from a manufacturing point of view here,” says McAllister, quickly pointing out the infrastructure challenge, including lack of charging points, easy access to on-the-road charging points, that only defeat the purpose.
While gender and sexuality remain sensitive issues, McAllister, who has been part of Pride marches, finds the number of participants growing year on year. “We have tried to reach out to communities to help them identify ways in which they can integrate and earn an income from work,” he says.