‘Smart’ Cities in the Global South

Research ICT Africa

This podcast focuses on the concept of “smart cities” – a label which has been critiqued by researchers due to its intrinsic connection to technology, the presence of which does not necessarily guarantee equitable uptake (or uptake at all), especially in the unequal societies of the Global South.

The podcast comes in five parts:

  1. Residents from Cape Town suburbs that were formerly designated for black occupation only by South Africa’s apartheid legislation tell what is “smart” in their neighbourhoods – and what they need to have “smarter” communities.
  2. A brief overview of a literature review on smart cities in the Global South, presented by RIA researcher Kiito Shilonga.
  3. Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina, an urban scholar-practitioner from the Wits School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, speaks about the reimagining the concept of smart cities to reflect the diversity, needs and aspirations of residents. Followed by Owen Xubuzane, a mobile filmmaker from Imizamo Yethu informal settlement in Cape Town, who explains how a “smart” project – IY TV – helped to connect the community by providing a zero-rated online platform where regular localised video news stories were posted.
  4. This part of the podcast challenges listeners to expand their thinking on the conceptual framing of “smart townships” through a set of provocative interventions in relation to local governments’ approach to township development.
  5. Drawing on the concept of “cyborg urbanism”, the Director of Research ICT Africa (RIA), Dr Alison Gillwald, makes recommendations for shifting the “smart cities” discourse – which amplifies power and wealth – to a “smart townships” one that redirects resources to areas of need.

The first four parts of the podcast are based on two reports published Urban Real Estate Research Unit, University of Cape Town.

The podcast is an output of the second phase of RIA’s Digital new deal for Africa – Governance in the Age of Digitalisation and Datafication Project , funded by the International Development Research Centre. The main project objective is to understand the nature and scale of digitalisation and datafication in Africa and the associated impacts. By developing the evidence base, RIA provides technical assistance and support to state and regional institutions, civil society and the private sector who are engaging in public interest international governance. Phase 2 of the project aims to develop governance frameworks to harness the benefits associated with global public good dimensions while mitigating accompanying risks.

The podcast was produced by Dr Heeten Bhagat, with the assistance of Nawal Omar, RIA’s Information Systems and Data Manager.

Listen to this episode: