Archived project

Information Systems for Smart Cities in Africa

Goal: Our research has an overarching goal to better understand how information systems contribute (or could contribute) to the development of Smart Cities in the African context.

Specifically the project has investigated the following research questions:

1) What are the information needs and preferences of individuals resident in and organisations operating in Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities), as well as the information needs and preferences of visitors to Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities)?
2) How can the information needs and preferences identified be mapped to information based services that are or could be provided? What processes are and/or could be used to make such mappings and how do these compare with existing processes for how such mappings can be made? What theoretical models might best inform such processes?
3) What information services are provided within Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities), in what forms and by whom? Who uses such services and (where feasible) what is their impact?
4) What are the gaps in service provision? How can the information based services identified be mapped to technology devices and applications, and providers of services? What processes are and/or could be used to make such mappings and how do these compare with existing processes for how such mappings can be made? What theoretical models might best inform such processes?

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Project log

Judy Backhouse
added 7 research items
Information and communications technologies (ICTs) promise development gains, yet the complexity and opacity of the relationships between ICT initiative and development effect makes it difficult to identify these development gains or to theorize connections. This case study does both. First, it identifies the connections between the roll-out of free public Wi-Fi by the City of Johannesburg and changes that have resulted in city residents’ lives. Second, it uses the choice framework to explain how these changes come about. This qualitative case study conducted interviews with users of the city’s free public Wi-Fi service to understand how the service has changed the choices they have, leading to development in the sense of increased capabilities. Benefits identified included easier communications, savings in time and money, social and psychological benefits, as well as increased knowledge, business ideas, access to markets, access to job opportunities, and increased income. This study demonstrates how the linkages can be understood, albeit not in a linear fashion.
In a connected and smart society, digital transformation has become one of the key strategies governments are adopting to promote inclusive growth. The 4 th industrial revolution, a digital driven revolution has brought with it many opportunities but developing countries continue to lag behind due to various challenges explored in this study. This is a case study of South Africa, one of the few African countries that have embraced the 'smart' agenda through promoting the digital transformation of government, business and society among other things. Using institutional theory, we explore the opportunities and challenges confronting the South African government in implementing policy reforms aimed at leveraging the benefits of the digital driven 4 th industrial revolution.
Digital transformation that promotes inclusive socio-economic transformation of societies into smart societies is often confronted by socio-economic, political and regulative challenges that have compromised the governance of smart societies. This calls for governments to respond with appropriate mechanisms for strengthening “smart governance.” Smart governance, through its three pillars of (a) leadership and governance, (b) integration and collaboration, and (c) information and communication infrastructure, could become an enabler of successful digital transformation. In this case study of South Africa, a developing country that has adopted a “smart” agenda, we discuss institutional mechanisms implemented to strengthen smart governance in support of government’s long term goals of inclusive socio-economic transformation. The study found that the effectiveness of institutional mechanisms such as policy, legislation, norms and structures for strengthening smart governance, have been compromised by institutional weaknesses such as lack of political cohesion, power struggles, loss of public trust in public institutions and poor collaboration. Inclusivity in the implementation of policies and programmes meant to promote socio-economic transformation remains a significant challenge. This suggests that smart governance is still in the pre-institutionalisation or habitualization stage.
Judy Backhouse
added a research item
The concept of a "Smart City" has been approached from different perspectives by researchers from different field in recent years. In the process, various characteristics of "smartness" have been proposed and explored. while there are elements in common, the different ways of understanding the term "Smart City" revel different assumptions about cities and their inhabitants, contextual differences, as well as disciplinary biases. There is the danger that the loose use of the term might create misunderstandings and dissent. This paper sets out a protocol for a systematic review of research into information systems for Smart Cities. We report initial findings of the review, analyse the ways in which a Smart City is defined by information systems researchers and investigate the possibility of a consensus definition. We also interrogate the smart city efforts of five African cities (Cairo, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Lagos and Nairobi) to understand the relevance of the definitions used by researchers to practitioners.
Jean-Marie Bancilhon
added a research item
Access to digitally connected living should support social and economic inclusion and provide opportunities for people to improve their quality of life. Yet evidence linking digital access and quality of life is lacking. We contribute by examining the relationship between quality of life and the extent to which individuals have accessed the Internet and whether they own their devices and connectivity. The dataset covers 27 490 individuals living in the Gauteng City-Region of South Africa. Results show that after controlling for other factors, individuals who are digitally connected exhibit significantly larger scores on quality of life indicators than individuals without access. However, 95% of individuals without access are from households below the median income category, and the odds of access are 9.85 times as large as for above median income than for those below median income. Thus, digitally connected living depends on, and cannot be disentangled from, preexisting opportunities for social and economic inclusion.
Judy Backhouse
added a research item
Young people are important to cities, bringing skills and energy and contributing to economic activity. New technologies have led to the idea of a smart city as a framework for city management. Smart cities are developed from the top-down through government programmes, but also from the bottom-up by residents as technologies facilitate participation in developing new forms of city services. Young people are uniquely positioned to contribute to bottom-up smart city projects. Few diagnostic tools exist to guide city authorities on how to prioritise city service provision. A starting point is to understand how the youth value city services. This study surveys young people in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, and conducts an importance-performance analysis to identify which city services are well regarded and where the city should focus efforts and resources. The results show that Smart city initiatives that would most increase the satisfaction of youths in Braamfontein include wireless connectivity, tools to track public transport and information on city events. These results identify city services that are valued by young people, highlighting services that young people could participate in providing. The importance-performance analysis can assist the city to direct effort and scarce resources effectively.
Judy Backhouse
added a project goal
Our research has an overarching goal to better understand how information systems contribute (or could contribute) to the development of Smart Cities in the African context.
Specifically the project has investigated the following research questions:
1) What are the information needs and preferences of individuals resident in and organisations operating in Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities), as well as the information needs and preferences of visitors to Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities)?
2) How can the information needs and preferences identified be mapped to information based services that are or could be provided? What processes are and/or could be used to make such mappings and how do these compare with existing processes for how such mappings can be made? What theoretical models might best inform such processes?
3) What information services are provided within Johannesburg (and, possibly, other African cities), in what forms and by whom? Who uses such services and (where feasible) what is their impact?
4) What are the gaps in service provision? How can the information based services identified be mapped to technology devices and applications, and providers of services? What processes are and/or could be used to make such mappings and how do these compare with existing processes for how such mappings can be made? What theoretical models might best inform such processes?