Classifying Pathways for Smart City Development: Comparing Design, Governance and Implementation in Amsterdam, Barcelona, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi

The emergence of the Internet of Things (IoT) as the new paradigm of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and rapid changes in technology and urban needs urge cities around the world towards formulating smart city policies. Nevertheless, policy makers, city planners, and practitioners appear to have quite different expectations from what smart cities can offer them. This has led to the emergence of different types of smart cities and pathways of development. This research aims to answer the research question: When comparing a selection of smart city projects, can we classify pathways for their implementation? We do this by using a cross-case research design of four cities to explore commonalities and differences in development patterns. An input-output (IO) model of smart city development is used to retrieve which design variables are at play and lead to which output. The four cases pertain to the following smart city projects: Smart Dubai, Masdar City, Barcelona Smart City, and Amsterdam Smart City. Our analysis shows that Amsterdam is based on a business-driven approach that puts innovation at its core; for Masdar, technological optimism is the main essence of the pathway; social inclusion is the focus of Barcelona Smart City; and visionary ambitious leadership is the main driver for Smart Dubai. Based on these insights, a classification for smart city development pathways is established. The results of the present study are useful to academic researchers, smart city practitioners, and policy makers.