Smart cities

  • This paper sought to understand what a smart city would be in the Ethiopian context.
  • The study investigated to what extent the urban data, technology, infrastructure, and networks allow for the implementation of future smart cities in Ethiopia.
  • The management of rapid urbanisation has been a challenge in Ethiopia. A smart cities/smart solutions approach could complement the work of urban managers.
  • The smart city approach demands storage of big data in one centre and a consistent approach to recording data. This will require investment in both ICT infrastructure and the human capital to use it.
  • Smart solutions in Sub-Saharan African cities could complement the many efforts of urban managers to meet urban demands.

We found that a contextual understanding of a smart city could yield a meaningful definition and comparison among Ethiopian cities. In the literature, ICT infrastructure is a key component of smart solutions for cities. However, we found that limitations of ICT in Ethiopia mean it should not be central to the definition of a smart city in this context. This is due to a lack of digital literacy and to poor internet connectivity in many Ethiopian cities. Moreover, not all cities are equally equipped with the basic ICT hardware necessary for storing large amounts of data.

A definition of smart cities that puts more emphasis on the environment, people, the economy, and mobility will be more useful. Indicators in these areas could be used for targeted effort by urban managers. They can also be used to make comparisons between Ethiopian cities.

Such a ranking could help to evaluate city performance at various government tiers. However, obtaining data and information on every smart city dimension and indicator could be a challenge. Not every city stores and compiles data and information in a comprehensive way. Researchers could end up with large number of proxy variables or with few indicators given the poor data sources. A significant financial commitment will be required to pay for expensive ICT hardware for data storage. Moreover, trained personnel will be necessary both to use the systems and to find smart ways of tackling new urban challenges.


  • Research in progress.

    Project last updated on: 9 Aug 2017.