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Towards Practice-Oriented Framework for Digital Inequality in Smart Cities

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Association for Computing Machinery


Digital equality, entailing access to the Internet and digital devices as well as a set of diverse digital skills, has been recognized as a crucial factor in the creation of just and sustainable smart cities. However, there remains gaps between smart city research and studies focusing on socio-digital inequalities and digital literacy. The aim of this article is two-fold: first, it explores the focal intersections of smart city development, socio-digital inequalities and digital literacy based on literature. Secondly, through an interdisciplinary exploration it aims to demonstrate that there is a need to align the current understanding of digital inequality with the conceptualizations of ‘smart citizenship’ which underline competencies related to critical thinking and resistance. For this purpose, we formulate a tentative, practice-oriented framework for understanding digital inequality in the context of smart cities. The framework is based on previous prominent definitions of digital inequality and digital literacy, but it intends to open new horizons for solutions and services that would increase peoples’ awareness on societal dimensions of digital technologies, and eventually, their digital agency. For the most part, the paper is theoretical, but it also draws examples from the research fieldwork conducted in Barcelona, Spain. Barcelona has been highlighted as one of the rare examples of a city that intends to center people in its smart city policies: We explore how Barcelona approaches the people-centric smart city in practice and introduce Canòdrom, a center for city inhabitants promoting open technologies, participatory democracy, and digital culture.


Ylipulli, Johanna; Hämäläinen, João (2023): Towards Practice-Oriented Framework for Digital Inequality in Smart Cities. Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Communities and Technologies. DOI: 10.1145/3593743.3593781. New York, NY, USA: Association for Computing Machinery. pp. 180–190. Lahti, Finland