shantyTown _smartCity

On the fringes: as cities grow many struggle to cope with the influx of migrants

On the fringes: as cities grow many struggle to cope with the influx of migrants

The promise of smart, the promise of information technology, the promise of transparency and efficiency is great for buses but not always for people. A city is not a machine and neither are its citizens. Rural migration and urban overpopulation is not a new phenomenon, nor is urban planning. Campbell (2012) estimates that by 2025, there will be 1200 large or intermediate sized cities (p.28) and that 75% of the world’s population will be in urban areas. The solution has been to make a city smarter, sold to urban planners by technology providers with a mantra of efficiency and sustainability. Hemment and Townsend, 2013 argue that this vision is flawed, that a top-down centrally controlled provision; vulnerable to political churn does not work for billions of excluded informal citizens.

Inclusive, bottom-up philosophies conclude that open and accessible big data for the smarter citizen will hold accountable the legacy of Fortune 500 urban planning for politically expedient new cities. Yet there are currently a billion people living on less than a dollar a day (ibid. p.35), 1 in 5 people live in slum conditions and by 2050 it is estimated to be 1 in 3 (Lea REKOW, 2013: 35). Kibera, Africa’s purportedly largest slum (Nairobi, Kenya) was officially registered as a forest (Hagen, 2010)  until residents were able to document and map their community using GPS and . Without documented infrastructure, residents lack any agency in policymaking and are powerless to hold institutions to account. Similarly, in Brazil, children’s kites attached to a digital camera have been used to conduct aerial surveys of Rio’s favelas.  These smarter citizens can then use their smart phones to document and geotag areas of contention and negotiation. These two examples of micro-social behaviour have the potential to encourage ‘landscapes of collective desire.’

” …landscapes that are characterised through the politics of self-positioning, regardless of the form of technology used.” (Lea REKOW, 2013: 38)





CAMPBELL, T.E.J., 2012. Beyond smart cities: how cities network, learn and innovate, Abingdon, Oxon: Earthscan.

HAGEN, Erica (2010.) Putting Nairobi’s Slums on the Map. Development Outreach, Special Report: WORLD BANK INSTITUTE. Available at: <> [Accessed 28apr3014]

HEMMENT, D. & TOWNSEND, A., (2013). Here Come the Smart Citizens in Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., ed. (2013) Smart Citizens – FutureEverything. Available at: <> [Accessed 01apr2014]

REKOW, Lea (2013). Including Informality in the Smart Citizen Conversation in Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., ed. (2013) Smart Citizens – FutureEverything. Available at: <> [Accessed 01apr2014]



HEATHCOTE, Edwin (2012). Compare and Contrast. ©Eyevine. <Available at: <> [Accessed 28apr2014].



Masdar, UAE.  Norman Foster designed city without residents.

Gurgaon, India. The ‘millenium city’ , filled with Fortune500 blue chip companies and a failed infratructure.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *