The data-technology nexus in South African secondary cities: The challenges to smart governance

Rushil Ranchod

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (SciVal)


This article focuses on two critical and intersecting issues on the global urban agenda: the growing importance of secondary cities in urban development policies, and the proliferation of digital technologies and data to support smart urban governance. This article contends that smart governance is a critical factor in urban technological transformation processes. Smart governance aims at improving urban management through enhanced data-informed decision-making and the commensurate inclusion and participation of civic actors in this process. Drawing on interviews with administrators in three South African secondary cities, the analysis highlights the complex challenges that limit the effective inculcation of smart governance practices in these cities. It focuses specifically on the strategic, organisational and political challenges of municipal administrations, and the obstacles to effective interaction between key actors in developing an effective municipal data-technology ecosystem. In doing so, this article contributes new insights into enhanced governance practices in smartening secondary cities; it initiates a critical inquiry on the uneven ways these small, less resourced and socio-economically contentious cities negotiate complex social, administrative and political dynamics in incipient processes of urban smartening.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3281-3298
JournalUrban Studies
Issue number6
Early online date5 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 5 Feb 2020


  • data
  • secondary cities
  • smart cities
  • smart governance
  • South Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies


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