Smart City Technologies: A Political Economy Introduction to Their Governance Challenges

Paper by Beatriz Botero Arcila: “Smart cities and smart city technologies are terms used to refer to computational models of urbanism and to data-driven and algorithmically intermediated technologies. Smart city technologies intend to plan for and deliver new efficiencies, insights, and conveniences on city services. At the same time, in instances when these tools are involved in decision-making processes that don’t have right or wrong mathematical answers, they present important challenges related to cementing inequality, discrimination, and surveillance. This chapter is an introduction to the governance challenges smart city technologies pose. It includes an overview of the literature, focusing on the risks they pose and it includes a case study of surveillance technologies as an example of the adoption and diffusion patterns of smart city technologies. This is a political economy approach to smart city technologies, which emphasizes the adoption, development, and diffusion patterns of these technologies as a function of institutional, market and ideological dynamics. Such an approach should allow scholars and policymakers to find points of intervention at the level of the institutions and infrastructures that sustain the current shape of these technologies to address and prevent some of risks and harms they create. This should help interested parties add some nuance to binary analyses and identify different actors, institutions, and infrastructures that can be instances of intervention to shape their effects and create change. It should also help those working on developing these tools to imagine how institutions and infrastructures must be shaped to realize their benefits…(More)”.