Smart cities from scratch: a wise idea?

Date: 19 October 2015

Venue: UAntwerp, Stadscampus, Building R, R014 - Rodestraat 14 - 2000 Antwerp

Time: 7:00 PM - 9:00 PM

Organization / co-organization: USOS and IOB

Short description: Debating development: Ayona Datta (University of Leeds), Eric Osiakwan (Angel Investor and Tech Entrepreneur, Ghana), Moderator: Stijn Oosterlynck (University of Antwerp)

In recent years, the idea of 'smart' cities has been identified as a key strategy for sustainable urban growth. The concept lends itself to two distinct but related definitions: a smart city can refer to an urban environment in which real-time technologies are embedded into a city’s infrastructure to monitor and regulate the environment, or, it can refer to the catalytic effect of information and communication technologies (ICT) in jumpstarting a knowledge economy.

In this debate we focus on the latter definition, and look at how entire regions are being re-designed—or even planned from scratch!—to accommodate ICT industries. Examples of new cities and technology parks abound, for example, Gurgaon (India), Songdo (South Korea), and Cyberjaya (Malaysia). Proponents argue that smart cities leverage technology, innovation and entrepreneurship for development, and that they offer countries the opportunity to 'leapfrog' into a high-tech economy. But others say that smart cities are just utopian visions offering few real benefits for local people, many of whom are displaced from their homes and livelihoods to make way for high-rise buildings and office parks.

Do smart cities facilitate development, and if so, what kind? Will they usher in equitable development for nations as a whole, or simply create enclave economies that benefit multinational firms the most? Who will be the winners in our smart new world?


Ayona Datta
Ayona Datta is a Senior Lecturer in Citizenship and Belonging at the University of Leeds, School of Geography.

  • Her broad research interests are in the social and cultural processes shaping notions of home, belonging and citizenship in cities. Her current work includes research on smart cities and the politics of urbanization, focusing on ways in which new forms of city-making create exclusionary landscapes of sustainable development in the global south.
  • She is co-editor of Translocal Geographies: Spaces, places, connections (2011) and author of The Illegal City: Space, Law and Gender in a Delhi Squatter Settlement (2012).
  • She is also the co-editor of two forthcoming books, Fast Cities: Mega-urbanization in the Global South and Ecological Citizenships in the Global South, which will be published in 2016.

Eric Osiakwan
Eric Osiakwan, Managing Partner of Chanzo Capital, is an angel investor and tech entrepreneur with fifteen years of ICT industry leadership across Africa and the world.

  • His work in 32 African countries has helped establish businesses and organizations including Angel Africa, Angel Fair, Ghana Cyber City, WABco, Ghana Internet Service Providers Association (GISPA), and Ghana Connect; he was also part of the team that built the TEAMS submarine cable in East Africa.
  • Heis a TED Global Fellow, an affiliate of MIT Media Lab, and Visiting Fellow at the Berkman Centre - Harvard University, the University of Maryland, and Stanford University. He has acted as a consultant to various organizations, including the World Bank, Soros Foundation, UNDP, and USAID.

Stijn Oosterlynck
Stijn Oosterlynck is Associate Professor in Urban Sociology at the University of Antwerp, Sociology Department.

  • He teaches courses on urban studies, poverty and social inequality.
  • His research is concerned with local social innovation and welfare state restructuring, the political sociology of urban development, urban renewal and community building and new forms of solidarity in diversity.
  • He currently coordinates a large-scale research project on solidarity in diversity (DieGem, IWT-SBO), is involved in several European collaborative research projects (ImPRovE, EU FP7 and Divercities, EU FP7) and is a partner in the Flemish Policy Research Centers on Spatial Planning (DURV, Flemish government) and on Poverty (VLAS, Flemish government).
  • He holds a PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University in the UK.




Entrance fee: Free


Contact email:

Contact phone: +32 3 265 56 54


Attachment: Flyer Debating development