Smart as democratically transformative? An analysis of ‘Smart City’ sociotechnical imaginary in India

Ghosh, Bipashyee and Arora, Saurabh (2019) Smart as democratically transformative? An analysis of ‘Smart City’ sociotechnical imaginary in India. Working Paper. Steps Centre, IDS, Brighton.

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‘Smart cities’ as sociotechnical imaginaries have been enthusiastically embraced by urban planners and policymakers around the world. In 2014, the government of India launched its Smart Cities Mission ostensibly to create socially inclusive and sustainable cities. Aspiring to make their cities smart, and following guidelines provided by the national government, urban authorities from all corners of India submitted proposals to compete in a Smart City Challenge. If successful, they would receive financial and technical support from the national government, to carry out the proposed smart transformations. Focussing on the urban mobility aspects of one such proposal, submitted by New Town, Kolkata, we assess how democratically transformative was the collective process of imagining smart cities in India. A democratically transformative process not only imagines the benefits of smart transformations to be widely distributed across different sections of the city, but it is also participatory and articulated. A participatory process affords possibilities to the most marginalised citizens to engage and raise their diverging and dissenting voices. And an articulated process registers the voices of the most marginalised in the sociotechnical imaginary it produces. Our results indicate that while considerable efforts were made to engage with citizens in the making of the imaginary, the process remained highly uneven and technology-centric, shaped by ‘globalised’ aspirations of urban smartness and by the upper and middle classes, leaving behind the voices and needs of poor and marginalised citizens of Kolkata.

Item Type: Reports and working papers (Working Paper)
Keywords: Smart city, transformation, sociotechnical imaginary, participatory policy, India
Schools and Departments: University of Sussex Business School > SPRU - Science Policy Research Unit
Research Centres and Groups: Social, Technological and Environmental Pathways to Sustainability Centre
Subjects: H Social Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Depositing User: Bipashyee Ghosh
Date Deposited: 28 Nov 2019 11:56
Last Modified: 03 Aug 2021 15:15

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