Regional Futures

The territorial politics of digitalisation-as-urbanisation in the global south
European Research Council (ERC) Advanced Grant 2020

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In the last two decades, an information revolution in the global south has profoundly shaped the urbanisation of metropolitan regions. Global and national initiatives to adopt smart technologies in local governments, with the claim that opportunities presented by digitalisation will resolve the challenges of urbanisation – are now literally automating regional futures. This project will conduct the first comprehensive South-South investigation of the dynamics of digitalisation-as-urbanisation – the transition to automated planning processes in metropolitan regions, and its impacts on regional urbanisation. The project will conduct research in peri-urban municipalities of three rapidly growing metropolitan regions where municipal digitalisation is directed towards strategic regional planning. These municipalities face major challenges with transforming paper-based colonial and postcolonial bureaucracies into automated planning processes within highly unequal contexts, and therefore represent the wider experience of digitalisation-as-urbanisation in the global south.

The project will investigate:

a) the rescaling of the digitalising state in local governance;

b) the territorialisation of information infrastructures; and

c) territorial politics of digitalisation.

It will examine how digitalisation produces new territories for metropolitan urbanisation and how state and non-state actors are assisting, contesting and disrupting these regional futures. It will bring to fruition the my earlier work on postcolonial urban futures, smart cities, digital citizenships and recent work on the governance of small cities in the global south. The project will build new theories and detailed empirical evidence of southern urbanisation as both a product and a producer of the ‘information revolution’ in the global south.


“The awarding of more than 200 ERC Advanced Grants in key scientific areas will help boost our scientific research and innovation capacity, for the benefit of all EU citizens. We will be able to continue and reinforce investments with the forthcoming Horizon Europe ERC work programmes. I am also pleased to see more women applying for these prestigious grants and winning them.”

Mariya Gabriel, the European Commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth