How ‘Smart’ are Smart City Developments

Updated: Aug 24, 2021

Building a Case for more Humanist Approaches to Indian Urbanisation


The world has seen an explosion of urban spaces in recent years. With sustainability trends like green economies, innovations to reduce waste, inculcation of sustainable behaviour, and a growing need to digitize and modernise populated spaces, ‘Smart Cities’ have become a buzzword since 2010. Within this space, India has come up with a diversified and comprehensive plan of action to create 100-smart cities for the urban population in order to facilitate economic, socio-cultural, and technological growth (Adapa). This article aims to understand what is meant by a Smart city. In a technology driven world, what is the role of human agency and capital in the reimagination of a prosperous and diverse society that hopes to be a haven for every single member? Thus, by examining the facets of smart cities, this paper hopes to bridge the gap between technological and humanist approaches to city planning and development, especially keeping in mind the context of Indian cities and impact on Indian citizens.

Aims and Research Methods

Seeking a humanist approach – that is a more people centric approach to city development – to smart city development is the key research theme of the article, explores the definitions of smart cities, their different methods of application, and what it means to have a citizen-centred or humanist approach. While smart cities are employing technological tools and envisioning a sustainable and modernised, higher standards and quality of living for their residents, they also face the dangers of succumbing to stakeholder agendas like profiteering, exclusivity in choice of residents, and an oversight of the day-to-day needs of the people they are being built for (Lee et al.). By using examples from the Indian smart city development projects and a critical analysis of the technological innovations, integration of different members, and the political, economic, and socio-cultural impacts of smart cities, I argue for a more humane and citizen-centric model of designing ‘smart’ cities. The research is based on secondary research materials, namely peer-reviewed articles, reports on smart cities from government websites, and stakeholder reports.