Searching for the Real Sustainable Smart City?



Webster CWR & Leleux C (2019) Searching for the Real Sustainable Smart City?. Information Polity, 24 (3), pp. 229-244.

The emergence of ‘Smart Cities’ is a contemporary global phenomenon which is closely aligned to a vision of modern technologically advanced sustainable urban environments. However, public policy and academic discourses differ about what constitutes a city that is either ‘smart’ or ‘sustainable’, and assumptions are frequently made about the positive impact of technology and its potential benefit to the environment. Whilst a smart city is not necessarily a sustainable city, the terms ‘smart city’ and the ‘sustainable city’ are increasingly being fused together in the concept of the Sustainable Smart City (SSC). This article seeks to explore the conceptual components of the SSC, with a particular focus on the participatory role of the citizen, where this involves the use of new digital technologies. Conventional eGovernment has tended to focus on service delivery rather than engaging citizens in participatory activity, whilst traditional discourses on sustainability focus on environmentalism rather than broader societal sustainability. Sustainability in the context of the SSC is a much wider concept, where the aspiration is also to improve the quality life by engaging citizens in participatory governance, by co-creating sustainability values, and by developing relationships, trust and sustainable mechanisms for ongoing engagement. In this respect, new digital technology is understood according to its transformational potential and the opportunities which it offers to citizens in delivery of services, meaningful participation and of sustainable societal solutions. This article explores the three underlying conceptual pillars of the SCC, namely insights deriving from perspectives associated with (1) sustainability, (2) new technology and (3) participation, where each of these perspectives offers up its own rationale and institutional logic. Here, it is argued, that whilst practice around SSC’s differs considerably, the ‘real’ SSC stands at the nexus of new technology, citizen engagement and sustainable outcomes.

Sustainable smart cities; smart cities; sustainability; citizen participation; eGovernance

Information Polity: Volume 24, Issue 3

FundersESRC Economic and Social Research Council
Publication date27/08/2019
Publication date online27/08/2019
Date accepted by journal17/06/2019

People (1)


Professor William Webster

Professor William Webster

Personal Chair, Management, Work and Organisation

Projects (1)