oa Journal of Management & Administration - Smart cities as misplaced priorities in South Africa : a complex balance of conflicting societal needs

Volume 2019 Number 2
  • ISSN : 1728-9157



As South Africa embraced the 21st century digital future, it has brought the contemporary concept of a Smart City sharply into focus. City planners are increasingly turning toward technology to solve logistical problems and to enhance overall liveability, with high-speed internet connectivity now an essential feature of any smart urban development (increasingly, it is the fourth utility after water, gas and electricity). President Ramaphosa’s vision of a new “Smart City” within the framework of a developmental state contrasts starkly with the view that Smart Cities in South Africa are a case of misplaced priorities, as what the people really want are an end to poverty, inequality and poor living conditions. Along with the positive benefits that accumulate, these come in equal measure with negative aspects such as informal development, traffic congestion, waste management, and access to resources and crime. In South Africa, it is posited that local government managers have hastily applied the smart futures approach, which has further entrenched spatial segregation and inequality which were the hallmarks of apartheid planning in South Africa. This article adopts the Q-Methodology (Q) which is a strategy developed to capture subjectivity. It uses Descriptive Theories, Social Theory and New Theory of Cities to understand the rationality of decisions that people make, and found that it is extremely important and useful to determine whether cities may be considered as Smart Cities, to what degree and on what grounds this is possible, in contrast with the stark reality of South Africa as a developing country ravished by corruption, poverty, inequality, poor living conditions and misplaced priorities. It recommends a major (and belated) land reform programme and for challenges to be carefully managed within the existing economic system and the socio-political realities that exist.

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