University of Pretoria

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Drivers and barriers to the adoption of the smart city paradigm in developing countries: A South African perspective

posted on 2020-12-01, 09:39 authored by Gayathri KolandaisamiGayathri Kolandaisami

The UN projected / forecasted that there will be a significant increase in urbanisation worldwide and further estimated that South Africa’s urban population will increase from 64.8 percent in 2015 to 79.8 percent in 2050. This rapid urbanisation in SA has plagued the country and led to various social and economic challenges such as, poor living standards, increase in crime, increased pressure on transportation and infrastructure and safety and security issues. In addition, the involvement of communities in political, government and municipal processes continues to be a challenge which fuels community frustrations due to poor service delivery and ineffective communication channels.

The smart city paradigm, via the utilisation of information and communication technology (ICT) systems is considered to be a critical mechanism to manage the challenges and needs of an ever increasing urban population. Developed countries have utilised the smart city paradigm to address their social and economic challenges in a transparent and accountable manner. However, developing countries, including SA, are slow to adopt the smart city paradigm. This research, therefore, sought to understand the drivers and barriers for the adoption of the smart city paradigm within the SA context. The literature review of this research revealed that there are no studies that investigated a comprehensive set of drivers and barriers holistically within the SA context, thereby, substantiating the need for this study.

This qualitative study, conducted via semi-structured interviews which included 13 public and private entity participants, added key insights to the existing body of smart city knowledge with respect to the rationale and barriers for smart city developments in SA. This study further developed recommendations to overcome the smart city barriers identified by this research, and recommended the sectors and areas in SA that need to prioritise the implementation of smart city projects to derive its benefits.

This study also constructed a smart city framework (DBRB framework) by taking cognisance of all the key insights obtained. The proposed framework illustrates the interconnectivity between the drivers, barriers and recommendations, and the subsequent benefits to be derived by government, the citizens and smart city service providers. A limitation of the study is that the results may not be extended to other developing countries that do not portray similar characteristics as SA. A suggestion for future research is to duplicate this study in other developing countries.