Towards socially sustainable smart cities: observations and potentials from digitizing participatory planning

Bouzguenda, Islam
This thesis contributes to the current debate on the relationship between the participation of digital citizens in urban planning and social sustainability within the framework of the smart city concept. Recent studies have reported that smart city initiatives are failing to live up to sustainability expectations. This, in turn, opens up questions about social sustainability expectations, which require more research. This thesis is written to cast light on the importance of considering the social dimension in smart cities by emphasizing the potential role of citizen participation in urban planning. Specifically, the focus of this study was on small cities in Europe that claim to play an important role in the economic and political development of the European union and hence, should be given more attention in research. This is crucial in social sustainability research since some small cities and their disadvantaged areas are struggling to compete with cities that are able to attract wealth and development, thus reinforcing the inequality gap. This thesis aims to answer three main questions: i) Can digital citizen participation play a role in advancing social sustainability in smart cities?; ii) How can small cities prepare to introduce digital participatory planning under the umbrella of smart cities and how to assess a city’s readiness for digital participatory planning?; and iii) What are the implications of utilizing three-dimensional digital participatory planning on the participatory planning process in less-advantaged area? This study was conducted in three stages based on a collaboration with a government organization and the local citizens. Qualitative and quantitative methods were utilized. The first stage of the research was based on a systematic review of the literature. The second stage utilized qualitative semi-structured interviews and quantitative questionnaires to collect data that were then analyzed using SPSS and NVivo software. The third stage of the research was based on the implementation of a digital participation tool in a real development project in Schiedam, the Netherlands ​
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