Smart Townships will build Smarter Cities

Policy Brief 3

What if, instead of building a R84 billion new ‘Smart-Megacity’, those resources were diverted to supporting the development of ‘Smart Townships’ and ‘Smart Villages’ to redress digital inequality, enable greater social and economic inclusion, and foster urban resilience for the next pandemic? This policy brief makes the case for Smart Townships. Key points it highlights are:

  • Building Smart Cities, as currently proposed, will not redress existing urban inequalities — digital resources (public Wi-Fi) and smart technologies tend to be allocated in city centres and high rate paying suburbs that already have, often privatised, digital and security services such as high-speed Internet access and video surveillance.
  • Rather than mobilising resources for a new futuristic city, such as the one proposed for Lanseria, government could crowd in productive private and public investments into a national strategy to deliver ‘Smart Townships’ and ‘Smart Villages’ in small and large municipalities with the purpose of enhancing their resilience before the next inevitable pandemic.
  • The Western Cape Digital Foundation’s ‘Smart Township Project’, despite being short-lived demonstrated that demand-side allocation of resources for public Wi-Fi, or the prioritisation of broadband, smart sensors and Internet of Things (IoTs) to monitor and deliver services in townships could contribute to redressing the spatial inequalities that characterise South African cities and contribute to President Ramaphosa’s promise of a more equitable reconstruction of the economy.

Suggested citation

Ahmed, S., & Gillwald, A. (2020). Smart Townships will build Smarter Cities (Policy Brief 2020, No. 3). Research ICT Africa.