Digitising the Periphery

Co-producing pathways to digital democracy and inclusive urbanisation

Duration: March 2021- February 2023 

Principal Investigator: Prof. Ayona Datta (UCL)

Co-Investigator: Prof. Abdul Shaban (TISS)

Research Associate: Dr. Sheema Fatima

Societal partners: Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF) and AQSA

Rapid and widespread growth of urban peripheries in the global south have made them the frontiers of planetary scale urbanisation. In India this has been matched by a ‘digital revolution’ in urban governance which has presented profound challenges to peripheral municipalities with degraded infrastructures, low digital capacities and high degree of inequalities. This project will investigate how urban peripheries are being transformed by digital infrastructures and technologies and how this is in turn producing new social and material inequalities across digital-territorial margins. Maintaining a close focus on key stakeholders and vulnerable actors, the research will develop digital and participatory methodologies to co-produce pathways to digital democracy and inclusive urbanisation with marginal actors living in the peripheries of metropolitan regions. This will address gaps in state digitisation initiatives, produce insights into processes of extended urbanisation in India’s digital age and fulfil SDG#10, #11 and Habitat III-New Urban Agenda.


  • Investigate how peripheral municipalities actualise national digitisation initiatives within systems of local governance.
  • Examine the social, material and technological struggles faced by marginal residents in accessing online public services in the peripheries and the pathways they use to overcome these struggles and build resilience.
  • Co-produce pathways to digital democracy and inclusive urbanisation with marginalised citizens that give them visibility and voice in state digitisation programmes, while making technological systems transparent and accountable.
  • Develop policy interventions on urbanisation and digitisation in the peripheries to address SDGs #10 and #11 and the New Urban Agenda.
  • Build research capacity and training of early career scholars in the global south.


The intended audience of this project includes academics, local governments, civil society and national, regional and global policy organisations. The project will benefit peripheral urban municipalities and other local governments that are rapidly transitioning to digitisation without effective digital infrastructures and without a national digital regulatory policy. It will contribute to addressing acute problems of technology transformations outside the territorial cores of digital innovation and entrepreneurship, thereby addressing SDGs #10 and #11 in the territorial-digital margins of the city.