But it is no longer sufficient. A majority of the global South’s population now has internet access and is included in, not excluded from, digital systems. Yet, as the figure below illustrates, that inclusion also brings inequalities – the small farmers in digital value chains losing out to large intermediaries; the gig workers whose value and data are captured by their platforms; the communities disempowered when they are digitally mapped.
Figure 1: From an Exclusion-Based to an Inclusion-Based Perspective on Digital Inequality
We need a new conceptualisation to explain this emerging pattern. I refer to this as “adverse digital incorporation”, defined as inclusion in a digital system that enables a more-advantaged group to extract disproportionate value from the work or resources of another, less-advantaged group.
As shown below, I have inductively built a model of adverse digital incorporation, based around three aspects:
Figure 2. Conceptual Model of Adverse Digital Incorporation
Future digital development research can apply this model deductively to cases of digital inequality, and can further investigate the digitality of adverse digital incorporation.
For digital development practitioners, the challenge will be to achieve “advantageous digital incorporation”: designing digital interventions that specifically and effectively reduce existing inequalities. This means going beyond digital equity to digital justice: addressing the underlying and contextual causes of inequality not just its surface manifestations.
A Smart City (SC) capitalises on technology, proper governance and collaborations between the various stakeholders to comprehensively promote city prosperity and eventually improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
Cities are agglomerations of economic, social, and cultural benefits. On the other hand, cities are increasingly confronted with issues such as diminishing public management efficiency, backward infrastructure, traffic congestion, environmental pollution, and general security concerns, among others.
The Smart City is a concept that has evolved around the world to solve urban problems and enhance urban development. Several municipalities, such as Cape Town, Ottawa, San Diego, Southampton, Barcelona, Seoul, and Shanghai, have developed SCs to serve citizens better and improve the quality of citizens’ lives.
What is Smart City Governance?
New governance patterns are required to manage SCs. The governance models for SCs could be divided into two categories:
Some of the governance models are technology-driven, focusing on the role of big data and technology.
Other governance models emphasise the human and institutional factors, such as the role of governance structures, citizen-centricity, social capital, human resources and stakeholders.
At the intersection of these two, Smart City Governance (SCG) emerges mainly due to the growing roles of technology and human capabilities in the functioning of cities, which gives the government the opportunity to optimise the governance process and outcomes. A typical description of SCG is “crafting new forms of human collaboration through the use of ICTs to obtain better outcomes and more open governance processes” .
How does technology affect SCG?
The technology revolution has altered the city governance model. The impact of technology on governance models is roughly in two directions. One is to use technology to strengthen the government-centric bureaucratic model, and the other is to use technology to distribute decision-making power to more stakeholders.
Technology contributing to the concentration of power
The case in Shenzhen, China shows how technology can strengthen a top-down governance model. The Shenzhen government propagated a programmatic document for SCG, the Shenzhen Municipal New-Type Smart City Construction Master Plan, in 2018. In this plan, the SC structure of Shenzhen includes three layers and two supports, as outlined in the figure below.
The primary layer is the SC Sensory Network System, which mainly includes sensor networks, communication networks, and computing storage centres; the middle layer provides support for government decision-making, which is composed of the Urban Big Data Centre and SC Operation and Management Centre; the top application layer includes four parts public services, public safety, urban governance and smart industries.
In this scenario, technology is the core element of governance and is used to strengthen the government’s decision-making and implementation capabilities. In this kind of governance model, technology is used to collect public management-related data and information, help make governmental decisions and finally reinforce the rationality and efficiency of government.
Technology contributing to the decentralisation of power
On the other hand, technology may give impetus to the bottom-up governance model. For example, in the case of Amsterdam Smart City (ASC), the Amsterdam Economic Board governs and funds it using an open web-based platform. This platform allows stakeholders to communicate and disseminate information in a fair and transparent manner. Furthermore, open-house programmes and open gatherings help citizens communicate and empower themselves. This case demonstrates how technological innovation has aided in the distribution of information and power to more stakeholders in ASC.
Figure 3. Amsterdam Smart City
In conclusion, data and information bestow stakeholders’ power and legitimacy in urban governance to a certain extent. From the standpoint of technology, the power distribution of data and information may affect the governance model towards decentralisation or concentration.
 Bolívar, M. P. R., & Meijer, A. J. (2016). Smart governance: Using a literature review and empirical analysis to build a research model. Social Science Computer Review, 34(6), 673–692. https://doi.org/10.1177/0894439315611088