Smart Cities

in the Global South

Smart cities are urban development projects that aim to solve the challenges faced by modern cities based on digital technologies.

Despite the utopian ring to this, a critical approach explores how smart is actually implemented and investigates impacts on everyday life.


About this site

This blog follows the development of the research project Smart Cities in the Global South: Contributing to Cosmopolitan Urban Studies. The project aims to study the sociopolitical impacts of smart cities in the Global South, analyzing two smart cases in Mexico: Ciudad Creativa Digital and Pueblo Mágico Inteligente.

Some of the questions this study intends to explore are:

  • How do government officials and decision makers interpret “smart”? How is the smart city produced?
  • How are the problems that the smart city promises to solve framed? Are these scenarios silencing other imaginaries?
  • For whom is the smart city built? Who is the imagined inhabitant and who becomes the excluded?
    What are the inequalities amplified through the projects? How are residents experiencing the smart city?
  • How do these cases compare or differ to other smart city projects in the Global North?

Research areas

Critical smart urbanism

Critical smart urbanism aims to shed light on the sociopolitical impacts of smart cities, paying attention to issues of justice and equality. Scholars have questioned one-size-fits-all policies implemented by governments and have asked us to question the risks that come with the use of big data (for example, impacts of privacy). Another issue that has been criticized is how business-oriented goals decided by Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) companies in partnerships with cities often ignore the realities of poverty and inequality. This project aims to contribute to this field.

Postcolonial urban studies

The project of postcolonial urban studies argues there is a need to expand the field of vision of urban studies beyond its usual locations of study: (Western) Europe and the Anglo-American heartlands. The aim is to dentralize and pluralize urban knowledge in order to develop a more cosmopolitan field of urban studies. This implies two things: we need more studies from locations in the Global South and these need to be understood in their own right — without lenses of exoticism or anomaly. This project aims to understand smart urbanism through a postcolonial lens.

Why is this important?

As urban growth continues to pose a challenge for sustainable development, understanding the experiences, challenges, and opportunities that smart city residents face in the Global South contributes towards expanding knowledge related to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals 9, 10 and 11 (Industry, innovation and infrastructure; Reduced inequalities; and Sustainable cities and communities)