Smart Cities and the urban digital divide

Authors: Andrea Caragliu*, Politecnico Di Milano, Chiara F.M. Del Bo, Università degli Studi di Milano
Topics: Economic Geography, Europe, Quantitative Methods
Keywords: Smart cities, Urban Inequality, Digital divide, Income distribution.
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:20 PM
Room: Virtual 27
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The debate on urban smartness as an instrument for managing more efficient cities has suggested that smart cities could be raising inequalities. Several theoretical arguments have been presented in support of this claim, most revolving around the idea that the smart city movement would be driven by MNCs, which would persuade city managers of the need of investing in their devices, at the expense of segments of the population not ready to reap their benefits (Vanolo, 2014; Shelton et al., 2013).
Following up on our own research carried out on the impacts of urban smartness (Caragliu et al., 2011; Caragliu and Del Bo, 2012) and Smart City policies (Caragliu and Del Bo, 2018 and 2019a), in Caragliu and Del Bo (2019b) we found that a negative relationship exists between urban smartness and the intensity of urban income inequalities, suggesting that Smart City features actually reduce income inequalities. Here we instead empirically verify whether smart urban characteristics are associated to an increase in urban inequalities along the digital divide dimension among urban dwellers.
In order to provide an empirical test of this hypothesis we exploit a large data base of 309 European cities, with data on smart urban characteristics, along with the measures of digital divide obtained with the use of survey data carried out at the EU level. Our results suggest that a negative association exists between the level of urban smartness and the intensity of the (within-city) digital divide. Results are robust to a number of consistency checks.

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