Exploring the relevance of ‘smart city’ approaches to low-income communities in Medellín, Colombia

Harry Smith, Gabriela M. Medero, Stephanie Crane de Narvaez, Wilmar Edgardo Castro Mera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
68 Downloads (Pure)


Smart city approaches have tended to be top-down, techno-centric/corporate and expensive approaches which are promoted by large, global companies. Smart city narratives focus on their expected capacity to improve citizens’ quality of life. However, can technology-driven and municipally-led smart city initiatives address the issues faced by poor and vulnerable communities in urban and peri-urban areas? This paper explores key aspects of the implementation of smart city approaches in the Global South taking as a case study the Colombian city of Medellín, which has been recognized internationally for its social innovation and is considered a smart city by the Inter-American Development Bank. The paper draws on a local, national and international literature review; interviews with key local stakeholders involved in smart city initiatives; and an international workshop on smart cities and community data management organized by the authors in Medellín and bringing together three perspectives: academia, government and community. The paper provides a reflection on the concept of smart city, data management and citizen participation in smart city initiatives in Medellín, contrasting each of these with the literature. Our research found gaps between broader conceptualisations and community-oriented intentions in smart city initiatives in Medellín, as well as very low uptake and reported impact of such initiatives. We conclude that a redefinition of smart city approaches that may respond to the needs of the population while improving liveability is still urgently needed, and we set out a series of questions for an international research agenda on low-income community-oriented smart city research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-38
Number of pages22
Issue number1
Early online date23 Jan 2022
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • Smart cities
  • Community data
  • Community management
  • Low-income
  • Global South


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