Friday, 18 December 2015

Stakeholder workshop December 2015

The project ended the year with a stakeholder workshop on the 7th December 2015. This was an opportunity to share our research with stakeholders and to get input from stakeholders on our research agenda for 2016. The workshop was well attended with representatives from the City, the Province and other partner organisations, and there was lively debate about the research presented as well as good ideas for future investigation.

After an update on the project progress for 2016, research was presented in two themes. The first session presented research around how a smart city contributes to quality of life. Two studies were presented, the first looking at how being digitally connected relates to quality of life and the second looking at how the use of apps benefits residents. These studies show that smart city services do contribute to quality of life.

In the second session three studies were presented looking at resident’s information needs and behaviour. The first study examined why people do or do not use smart city services that have been provided by the City. The second tested the e-skills of residents in city libraries to assess whether they are able to make use of digital services being provided. The third study presented an analysis of the types of people who use the City’s web site, analysing their information needs and how well the City’s web site meets them. These three studies all reflected on the unequal access that residents have to smart city services in Johannesburg and Gauteng.

The project team are grateful to stakeholders for their continued interest in and support of our research and look forward to future fruitful engagement. 

Links to the presentations are provided here:

Bursary for MCom studies in 2016

The Information Systems for Smart Cities in Africa project has a bursary for a student to complete a full-time Master of Commerce by research in Information Systems during 2016.

The bursary is valued at (South African rand) R40 000 and can be used towards fees and living expenses. The research project will also cover expenses incurred in conducting the research. The successful student will be provided with shared office space and the tools needed to complete the research. In return they will be expected to take responsibility for aspects of running of the research project and to participate in seminars and departmental activities. More information about postgraduate studies at the University of the Witwatersrand can be found at

Interested applicants should have a good honours degree (4-year bachelor’s degree) in information systems with solid research experience. Please apply online ( for entry into the MCom degree and also send a complete CV and a letter motivating your selection to the project to Professor Judy Backhouse ( Applications close on the 15th January 2016. You can contact Professor Backhouse by e-mail or on +27 11 717 8161 for more information.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Paper presented at CIRN Conference, Prato

Malefa Topo traveled to Italy last month to present a paper and a research poster titled "Explaining the Use and Non-Use of Smart Cities Services in Johannesburg: Residents’ Perspectives" at the 12th Prato Community Informatics Research Network (CIRN) conference. The paper was based on preliminary results from her master's research that examined what makes residents use or not use Smart Cities services, to try and identify ways that will ensure that all residents have the privilege of using the provided Smart City services. Preliminary results showed that existing models that explain use and non-use need to be expanded to take account of issues of awareness, access, and trust that arise in a developing country context.

Malefa Topo with her research poster
The conference, hosted by Monash University at their centre in Prato, ran from the 9th to the 11th November 2015. Topics relating to information and knowledge sharing and how the production of information and knowledge can reflect unequal distributions of power and privileges were discussed at the conference. The conference also included a workshop on ethics, diversity, and inclusion that aimed to move towards approaches that ensure that ICT facilitates social inclusion and equal privileges.
Malefa Topo networking with other researchers
A copy of the paper can be downloaded here:
Topo and Backhouse (2015). Explaining the use and non-use of Smart City services in Johannesburg: Residents' perspectives. Paper presented at the 12th Prato CIRN Conference 9-11 November 2015, Prato, Italy.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Performative Urbanisms seminar

Prof Jason Cohen, Prof Judy Backhouse and Mitchell Hughes from the IS for Smart Cities in Africa project were guests of the Wits City Institute on Thursday the 10th September where they presented some of our research at the Johannesburg: Performative Urbanisms seminar. This seminar, subtitled “Fighting for and over the city: Expressing the city: Knowing the city”, brought together thinkers around these themes to develop a special edition of the journal Thesis Eleven on, in and around the city of Johannesburg.

The IS for Smart Cities in Africa project contributed a panel to the second day of the proceedings discussing the analytical frames we have been using as well as research results focusing on the relationship between connected living and quality of life and the preferences residents express for different information sources. Addressing an audience mostly outside of the Information Systems discipline proved to be an interesting and thought-provoking challenge.

The seminar was hosted at the Johannesburg Institute for Advanced Study and the University of Johannesburg.

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Research presented at Smart | City | Region symposium

Professor Judy Backhouse was a panellist at the GCRO’s Smart | City | Region Symposium on 26 August 2015, at the Digital Innovation Zone in Braamfontein. She presented some of the project’s research, looking at definitions of Smart Cities and how results show that resident’s expectations of Smart Cities are not homogeneous. Our research highlights the need for the kind of detailed data that the GCRO’s quality of life survey is producing, which enables us to look at specific kinds of residents, as well as the need for debate about the kind of Smart City initiatives that are pursued and who will benefit from them.

Judy Backhouse presenting our research at the symposium

The symposium included panellists from local and provincial government, business and researchers and debated questions such as: What does this mean for local and provincial government in a City-Region struggling with the adequate provision of services? Can smart city projects provide a city-regional solution to address key development and infrastructure problems in the Gauteng City-Region? Is smart city a catchy buzzword driven by corporate profit making with limited benefits for government and general public? Will a smart city approach slowly erode the democratic city as we know it, or produce new types of publics, ways of being and urban expressions that enhance urban society and culture?

Shado Masilela poses next to the seminar logo

Some of our students attended the symposium and took the opportunity to question panellists and to network. The symposium formed part of the Fak'ugesi African Digital Innovation Festival 2015.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Research retreat

From the 12th to the 14th of August the Information Systems for Smart Cities in Africa research team retreated to Foxwood House for three days of writing and thinking. The time was used to advance our research in a number of ways. Honours students were finalising their data collection plans and the team spent time debating those strategies to optimise the value of the research. Others worked on conference and journal articles, while time was also spent on analysing data from the Gauteng City Regional Observatory’s quality of life survey, which is throwing some interesting light on how people in Gauteng use information technologies.

Team members Malefa Topo, Jean-Marie Bancilhon, Jason Cohen,
Tom Grace and Preshlen Reddy, hard at work

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Paper presented at ACIST 2015

On the 7th and 8th of July, Professor Judy Backhouse attended the African Conference on Information Systems and Technology (ACIST 2015) in Accra, Ghana. She presented a paper titled "Smart City agendas of African cities" which examines the Smart City agendas of five African cities.

The conference was organised by the School of Technology at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration (GIMPA) and hosted at the GIMPA conference centre.

The conference attracted a number of papers on topics relating to public management and provided good networking opportunities with researchers working in these areas.

A copy of the paper is available here:
BackhouseJ (2015). Smart city agendas of African cities. Proceedings of the African Conference on Information Systems andTechnology (ACIST) 2015, 7-8 July 2015. Accra, Ghana.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Honours students' research projects for 2015

The following research projects are being undertaken by our honours students this year:

Yaseen Patel: Readiness of Library Users for Smart City: A Study of Self-Perceived e-Skills and Actual e-Skills

The context of this study involves the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) upgrades, including computer and broadband in city libraries in an effort to develop Johannesburg into a ‘Smart City’. This solves the issue of access, however, the success of these initiatives depends on the level of participation from residents of Johannesburg. The participation levels depend on the level of e-Skills residents possess. e-skills are defined as the ability to make use of ICTs. Prior research claims that self-reported e-skills are high, but it is uncertain to what extent self-reporting is reliable.

This will be a descriptive study following a quantitative study method using a positivist paradigm. The sample population will be residents who make use of the city library, particularly the main library in Market Street. The data collection procedure will consist of two parts. First the participants will answer a cross-sectional survey questionnaire about their self-perceived e-skills. A short subsequent test will evaluate their  actual e-skills by assessing how participants interact with elements of e-government websites, such as downloading a city budget PDF document. The results will be statistically analysed to determine the correlation between self-perceived e-skills and actual e-skills. The strength of the correlation will determine the reliability of self-reports.

This research will contribute to determine whether library users are ready for ICT upgrades which will be significant in determining if future initiatives will be successful. Finally, this will contribute to establishing whether self-reported skills can be trusted.

Preshlen Reddy: Adoption of Smart Technologies by City Residents and Effects on Quality of Life

Advances in modern Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have given people extra levels of comfort, enjoyment and convenience. This allows people to perform tasks in their daily lives much more effectively and which could allow for an enhanced quality of life. This may be particularly so with mobile devices and ‘’apps’’ which together constitute Smart Technology. Improving the quality of life of city residents through Smart Technologies is an important objective for Smart Cities. However, there is no evidence as to whether residents who make greater use of these technologies experience a better quality of life in developing city contexts than residents without such access.

Therefore, understanding how Smart Technologies allow residents to access city services and tailor outcomes to their needs and how this influences their quality of life is a research problem in need of attention. Moreover, past literature has not sufficiently explored (1) the factors that influence the adoption of Smart Technology, or the extent to which these particular factors are applicable in developing city context, and (2) the extent to which such adoption influences the degree to which residents experience an increased quality of life. The adoption of Smartphone Technology by residents is important to the success of any Smart Technology initiative in the Smart City context. It is critical to also understand the factors that affect the adoption of Smartphone Technology.

Shado Masilela: Understanding residents: Constructing personas for the City of Johannesburg website

I propose to conduct a study to understand the information needs of the residents within Johannesburg that can be addressed by using Information and Communication Technology (ICT). My study is in response to the emergence of Smart Cities in Western and Asian nations, where South Africa and other African nations have begun to develop their own Smart Cities. This development of African Smart Cities faces challenges unique to the continent. One main challenge that is to be researched within my study is the complex nature of residents within Johannesburg where I will focus on their information needs in relation to their residence in the metropolitan municipality of the City of Johannesburg. The types of information needs include but are not limited to information regarding utilities, property, the local government along with amenities and services available within the city. The specific form of an ICT that aims to fulfil the information needs of Johannesburg’s residents is the official City of Johannesburg website ( and my study will assess whether  the information needs of residents, that are to be empirically found through the study, can be fulfilled through the services offered through this website. The information needs are to be aggregated and personas constructed including the residents’ motivation and ability to use ICTs generally and specifically regarding the City of Johannesburg website.

My research will contribute to evaluating the effectiveness of constructing personas for understanding residents and also to furthering the development of the City of Johannesburg as a world class African Smart City.

Kalaela Gold: Improving government e-Service delivery: Evaluating the impact of user expectations, derived from personas, on resident satisfaction

Customer satisfaction is considered paramount in the private sector as organisations aim to design service offerings that will continue to be used by their customers. The same is true of the public sector, such as government services provided to its residents. In order for residents to be satisfied with government services, those services must match the residents’ expectations. It is challenging for practitioners who design and develop government e-services to predict resident expectations. Persons – which are used to facilitate user experience design – may be used as a communication tool to guide development in the understanding of residents’ expectations.

Therefore, the purpose of my study is to initially develop a set of personas that represent residents of Johannesburg who use or have an interest in using the e-service on the City of Johannesburg’s website. The expectations of actual users will be derived from the personas. User expectations of the e-services will be used to evaluate the resident satisfaction of the e-services on the City of Johannesburg’s website. A quantitative approach will be taken to develop the personas and to assess resident satisfaction.

The personas constructed in the study may aid the developers of the City of Johannesburg’s website in understanding expectations from users in order to modify existing e-services or develop new services. However, if it is found that residents are generally satisfied, a low adoption rate may be due to the lack of knowledge of the government e-services. Marketing practitioners may use the information in the personas to develop marketing plans in order to spread the knowledge of the existence of the e-service. Resident satisfaction is vital for continued use of the government e-service and contributing to the continued success of Smart Cities.

Mosi Huma: Connect Living: A study of the Effects of Digital Connectedness on the Quality of Life of Smart City Residents

“Smart Cities” has no clear definition as it is dependent on the context the term is used in, however, most Smart City initiatives make use of Information and Communications Technology to provide residents with satisfactory living. Based on the large use of Information and Communications Technologies, a study on the effects of these technologies is needed. This is conducted by assessing the effects of digital connectedness on the quality of life of Smart City residents and is made possible through the large amount of data obtained by the Gauteng City Regional Observatory (GCRO) over the periods 2011 and 2013. The study will assess the effects of connectedness and investigate if other demographic factors are involved in affecting resident’s quality of life. The literature review has allowed for the formation of a model based on the theoretical foundation of satisfaction theory, components of connectedness and theories of quality of life. Literature relating to connectedness in a Smart City context is limited, therefore this study should add to the body of knowledge for research purposes and also contribute to future Smart City initiatives in South Africa. A quantitative approach to research shall be taken as the study is interested in the measurement of observational criteria. As we are dealing with residents from the ten Smart Cities that compose the Gauteng region, a large population is used and interview surveys are used as a method of data collection because this method attains the necessary data with less bias from the respondent.

Friday, 24 April 2015

Paper accepted for ACIST 2015 conference

A paper by Professor Judy Backhouse, entitled Smart city agendas of African cities has been accepted for the African Conference on Information Systems & Technology (ACIST) 2015 to be held in Accra, Ghana on the 7th and 8th of July.

This paper investigates how African cities understand the idea of a Smart City by examining what smart city agendas are being pursued in five cities on the continent and how these agendas are informed by local realities. The paper identifies competing discourses of social inclusion and development that benefit all city residents and smart-looking cities that benefit business and the elite.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Welcome to 2015 honours students

We have five Bachelor of Commerce Honours students joining the project team for 2015.

They are (from left) Yaseen Patel, Shado Masilela, Preshlen Reddy, Kalaela Gold and Mosi Huma. Yaseen and Shado are the recipients of the 2015 honours bursaries funded by the National Research Foundation.

Welcome to the team!

Master’s students share their research plans

There are three master’s students currently part of the Information Systems for Smart Cities in Africa project. Here they share some information about their research.

Malefa Topo

I propose to conduct a study that seeks to identify the factors hindering the take-up and use of the provided e-services that address identified information needs and demands in the cities in Gauteng. The success of the smart cities initiatives depends on residents’ participation and use of the provided e-services. While there seems to be evidence of a well formulated set of e-services developed and implemented to address residents' information needs and preferences, residents still express a need for these e-services. It is unclear why residents continue to express a need for services that are already being provided. Literature suggests that there might be factors hindering the take-up and use of the current e-services (Carter & Belanger, 2005). Smart City initiatives may not work unless local governments understand the factors that make residents use or not use the e-services that are offered.

My research study will contribute to practice by providing guidance to the city management as to what e-services are used by the residents. This means that the local government will be able to use this study as a guide when attempting to understand the residents’ use of the provided e-services.  The research will further identify the factors hindering the use of e-services. This will enable the local governments to direct attention to different approaches that can be adopted to address these barriers, and ensure that the Smart City services developed to meet the residents’ needs do not become obsolete.

Nalukui Malambo


My practical concern with the future of African cities has directed my research interest regarding the continent and how information systems are currently being used by cities of Africa, and how cities are developing and implementing solutions that are responsive to pressing issues sparked by the escalating rate of urbanisation exerting pressure on local socio-economic services, environmental and institutional structures.

The purpose of my research is to explore how African cities are adopting smart city agendas.  The study focuses on three key objectives which are to (i) identify factors contributing to the adoption of smart city agendas in Africa (ii) determine the objectives for developing smart city agendas in Africa and to (iii) identify the approaches adopted in implementing smart cities in the African context.  The research method of this study will be qualitative in nature and will be conducted using a comparative case study design and purposively selected two cities in Africa.

The findings of this research will be unique to the socio-economic context of each city and may not be generalizable to other cities.  However, the study will contribute towards understanding and documenting smart city initiatives in Africa and further knowledge on how the smart cities concept is being adopted and implemented by African cities.

Daniel Mutale

My study aims to identify and examine the factors which influence residents’ intention to continue using e-government services within developing countries. It has a particular focus on factors relating to technology, user satisfaction, trust and engagement. E-government services facilitate digital interactions between citizens and their respective governments.

The first step toward realising e-government success and long-term viability is the initial acceptance of e-government services. Continued use of e-government services by residents will enable its long term success. The acceptance of e-government services within developing countries is still a challenge. The majority of adoption research on e-government services within developing countries focuses on initial acceptance. The current study extends the current knowledge on e-government services by conducting an individual level study which will focus on residents’ intention to continue using e-government services. The quantitative research approach will be used in this study. Data will be collected from residents of South Africa and Kenya.

The study will provide guidance to governments in understanding whether the continued use of e-government services can be explained in terms of trust, satisfaction, engagement and technology factors. This can be used during and after e-government implementations to identify focus areas for achieving the continued use of e-government services. This will ensure that governments can successfully implement e-government services and achieve long-term e-government and Smart City success.