How Do Smart Cities Influence Governance? A Descriptive Literature Review


Advances in the field of information and communication technologies (ICTs) have contributed vitally in enhancing the effectiveness of electronic governance (e-governance). E-governance refers to the intensive use of ICTs for timely provision of public services, government information, information access without bureaucracy, improvement of managerial effectiveness, and promotion of democratic values (Stemberger and Jaklic, 2007). Today, the concept of smart cities has gained popularity in city associations and governmental institutions (Van den Bergh and Viaene, 2015). Cities were once merely considered as part of local government but they are now the centers of governmental innovation (Lee and Lee, 2014). The importance of developing cities in a sustainable manner is dramatically rising because of population growth and urbanization trends. The urban population is estimated to grow by 2.3 billion in the next 40 years, while around 70% of the world's population will reside in cities by 2050 (Theodoridis et al., 2013). This increasing population growth will lead to a rise in the consumption of resources, which will pose a challenge to the quality of life. A wide range of problems can be tackled by exploiting ICTs in a smart city. As ICTs play a critical role in designing smart cities, a significant part of city investment is utilized in developing new ICTs (Perboli et al., 2014).

Smart city is a newly introduced and ambiguous term. Nevertheless, it can be used to describe a city that uses ICTs to enhance the quality of life of its citizens and promotes sustainable development (Chourabi et al., 2012). Smart city initiatives have attracted the attention of policy makers and researchers, as they can address issues related to either e-government, economy, mobility, environment, energy, or a combination of these (Caragliu et al., 2011). Several smart city initiatives target the development of ICTs to augment the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability, and transparency of communications and transactions between citizens and government (Perboli et al., 2014). Though the smart city and e-government initiatives might differ from each other in the context and characteristics of specific projects, there is still much commonality between them. This is because many smart city initiatives are driven by governments with the objective to serve the citizens in a better way. ICT-based governance is also known as smart governance. The research firm Forrester has stated that smart governance is fundamental to smart city initiatives (Chourabi et al., 2012).

On the other hand, researchers have also put forth negative aspects of the smart city. Martinez-Balleste et al. (2013) argued that the collection and management of huge amounts of data would lead to a "Big Brother" effect, that is, a lack of privacy due to which citizens may abstain from availing of smart city services. Thus, the rapid growth of smart cities, along with these contrasting claims, makes it an exciting area to research on. As smart city initiatives and governance complement each other, gaining an understanding of the hitherto sparsely studied impact of smart cities on governance underscores the importance of conducting this research. In light of the aforementioned view, we raise our research question: How do smart cities influence governance? This research intends to answer this question by conducting an in-depth literature review to find and classify the benefits and challenges faced by governance in a smart city. Most importantly, given the contemporary relevance of this subject, we also provide key insights for future researchers and policy makers.

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