Critical analysis of smart city from an NGO’s perspective towards sustainable urban development : a case study of Indonesia’s new capital city

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: Urban establishment from scratch based on a smart city vision has been mainstreamed as a strategy to achieve urban sustainability goals. However, the smart city model itself has been criticized because of how the techno-centric solutions it uses could potentially lead to economic and social inequality. Urban Political Ecology (UPE) focuses on how the urban production process involve commodification of nature, causes environmental damage, and ignores social justice value. As a response, UPE encourages a dissensus approach to create an inclusive and environmentally sustainable urban development. Using UPE and the right to the city framework, this thesis critically analyzes the smart city concept and investigates socio-political dynamics behind the urban production process from activists’ dissensus. It is based on a single case study analysis of Indonesia government’s plan to establish new country’s capital from scratch in East Kalimantan, which was opposed by local and national NGOs. Findings show that the smart city being planned by the Indonesian government reflects a neoliberal smart city vision. Meanwhile, the new capital establishment is regarded by activists as a project driven by oligarch interests and that benefit large corporations. The project is also considered to lack transparency, ignore local and public voices, cause marginalization and reduce East Kalimantan’s environmental carrying capacity. Construction of the new national capital does not guarantee the betterment of Jakarta’s socio-ecological condition and realization of a sustainable new capital city. Therefore, activists urge the government to cancel the project and focus on restoring Jakarta's condition instead. My thesis reveals that civil society dissensus can potentially help sustainable urban development that is socially just and environmentally sustainable. Thus, the government and urban planners must take into account dissensus-based approach in the future city projects.

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