Towards smart cities for sustainable and efficient socio-economic development : reflections from Lanseria, South Africa

18 Dec 2020

The evolving concept of "smart city" has recently been considered globally as a strategy for achieving sustainable urban planning through the use of Information and Communication Technology for socio-economic development. Like in many countries, South Africa's cities are considered as centres for modern development and innovation which directly contributes towards socio-economic development. Through urban planning, there must however, be a balance between development interventions and the natural environment for sustainability compliance. In his State of the Nation Address, President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated that South Africa is in need of a smart city that can amend the apartheid socio-economic spatial make-up and accordingly, "a new smart-city is taking shape in Lanseria, which 350,000 to 500,000 people will call home within the next decade". Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to theoretically determine South Africa's readiness towards building sustainable smart cities which can effectively respond to the apartheid spatial planning. Given that smart city concept is not well-defined, which approach has South Africa adopted in their smartness given the failure of the Modderfontein Smart City? Although a number of cities globally have implemented smart city projects for sustainable socio-economic development, the principles of smart cities are techno-centric and economic in nature with limited focus on social, cultural and environmental factors affecting sustainable urban development. Are South Africa's smart cities taking the principles into consideration? The paper concludes that South Africa needs to clarify its conception of smart cities in order to ensure that they respond to the existing socioeconomic status of the country. That is, the country in its current state, which is characterised by problems in all its State Owned Enterprises, high unemployment rates and levels of poverty, and, huge debts associated with development, is not ready to implement smart cities for socio-economic development.