Does Smart Cities Improve the Quality of Governance? Views from the Middle East and North African Countries.

Dr. Shahjahan Bhuiyan

This study highlights the role smart cities play in improving the quality of governance, with a focus on the understanding to achieve the well-being of citizens as a result of the operations of smart cities in some countries, such as Egypt, Kuwait, Qatar, and United Arab Emirates (UAE), in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The advent of smart cities in MENA, like other parts of the world, germinates from an ever increasing demand of urbanization and the effective and efficient delivery of urban services, dissemination of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and ensuring the quality of life of citizens. Several studies (e.g., Pereira et al., 2017) have found that smart cities play a supportive role in providing an environment of collaborative governance, which, in turn, increases the participation and engagement in government. In this context, employing a qualitative method, the study proposes the following research questions:
(1) To what extent do smart cities play a role in improving the quality of governance?
(2) What are the problems and challenges in instituting and operating smart cities in MENA?

The findings of the study show that, with the exception of UAE, smart cities play a limited role in improving quality of governance in MENA countries. The study identified many problems and challenges such as political instability, weak economy, changes to government priority from ICT to other areas, bureaucratic barriers dealing with the making of smart cities, and lack of awareness of citizens. Drawing upon the learning from global experiences where smart cities play a meaningful role in improving the quality of governance, particularly the well-being of citizens, the MENA countries may come up with appropriate policy guidelines to position smart cities as a tool of improving the quality of governance.