Governing the smart city: a review of the literature on smart urban governance

Albert Meijer, Manuel Pedro Rodriguez Bolivar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Academic attention to smart cities and their governance is growing rapidly, but the fragmentation in approaches makes for a confusing debate. This article brings some structure to the debate by analyzing a corpus of 51 publications and mapping their variation. The analysis shows that publications differ in their emphasis on (1) smart technology, smart people or smart collaboration as the defining features of smart cities, (2) a transformative or incremental perspective on changes in urban governance, (3) better outcomes or a more open process as the legitimacy claim for smart city governance. We argue for a comprehensive perspective: smart city governance is about crafting new forms of human collaboration through the use of ICTs to obtain better outcomes and more open governance processes. Research into smart city governance could benefit from previous studies into success and failure factors for e-government and build upon sophisticated theories of socio-technical change. This article highlights that smart city governance is not a technological issue: we should study smart city governance as a complex process of institutional change and acknowledge the political nature of appealing visions of socio-technical governance.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-408
JournalInternational Review of Administrative Sciences
Issue number2
Early online date2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • collaborative governance
  • e-government
  • smart city
  • urban governance


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