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Smart City

Neoliberal Discourse or Urban Development Tool?

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Nancy Odendaal

11 June 2016

Palgrave Macmillan


Amy Mutua

Book chapter



The relationship between technology and development is addressed in many development discourses. Framed as an impetus to modernisation, progress, and economic development, it has generally been seen from a determinist perspective that overstates the progressive qualities of technological innovation. Technologically determinist notions tend towards a top-down approach that favors the ‘if you build it, they will come’ notion of technology-led policy. The ‘smart city’ discourse has not really been considered in the development studies literature but provides interesting insights into the relationship between cities, technology, and social development. Often these initiatives are associated with other objectives, such as improved and more democratic governance as represented by e-governance initiatives. This chapter considers the trajectory of smart city debates and considers whether its social development promises are mere that, marketing language for city ‘potentials’, or does provide a meaningful frame for empowerment and progress.


Abstract based directly on original source. Back to the SmartCity.ZA collection.


Website References



Human settlements

Informal settlements

Smart Cities

Social development


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