Outwitting Smart Cities: Sustainability, Equity and the Commons

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The rise of smart cities as an urbanization paradigm has been sharp and sudden, with Smart City Strategies increasing dramatically in the last 10 years (Roland Berger, 2019). Some 40% of these strategies stem from Europe, and 5 of the worlds ‘smartest cities’ are European (Roland Berger, 2019). It is difficult not to tie this rise to the post GFC austerity era, in which devolution of responsibilities, decreasing municipal budgets and increased competition for scarce resources have seen municipalities more dependent on the private sector, and public-private partnerships to advance urban development projects. The smart city might seem like the perfect techno-bureaucratic utopia, showcasing a technological fix to the environmental problem of contemporary metropolises and tackling the urban economic growth problem through large private investments. However, a first generation of research investigating actually existing smart city projects finds that the triumphalist discourse of smart city advocates falls short (Martin et al, 2018, Evans et al, 2019), in particular when it comes to the ability smart cities initiatives to promote urban sustainability and equity agendas. In order for the ‘smart city’ to become a transformative paradigm it must engage with key debates and challenges of our time, both conceptually and practically, and adopt a different stance in which urbanization is seen less as a business model and more as a vehicle for social change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4-7
JournalReal Estate Research Quarterly
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2019


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