Informal settlements in the context of Smart Cities. The case of Mumbai

Informal settlements and their re-development in the context of smart city policies in India: From the macro scale of national urban development policies to the micro scale of children’s playground.

An international panel with:

Amita Bhide (Tata Institute for Social Sciences, Mumbai)
Biju Kuriakose (Architect, Chenai)
Martina Spies (Research & Design of children’s playground, Mumbai)  
Alexander Hamedinger & Ian Banerjee (TU Wien)

11th of April 2019, 11 am – 3 pm
TU Bibliothek, Vortragsraum, 5. Stock
1040 Wien

According to the UN Habitat report 2016, informal settlements are one of the main characteristics of megacities of the Global South. The report also says that many of these cities are unable to provide inclusive spaces accessible to all social groups. Processes of transformation and planning approaches on the micro scale need to be embedded in wider, national urban development policies.

This is the starting point of our discussion in this panel. We look at informal settlements in cities of the Global South with focus on Mumbai. We look at their transformations as well as attempts of re-development. A lot of cities in the Global South (also in India) are currently embracing the ideology of smart cities which are often creating new types of social inequalities. How is the smart city discourse affecting urbanism as a whole? How are micro spaces of everyday life affected by these new developments? Are there socially relevant ways of applying ‘smart’ planning approaches?

A glance at megacities like Mumbai shows a lack of open spaces, particularly the neglect of children’s playgrounds and the undermining of agency of children in a deeply stratified society. We discuss the results of a research project we conducted recently.

Two other important aspects we address in this event concern the methodological question of doing urban research and planning in informal settlements and also, how to bridge sociological research with urban design processes. In particular, we look at the well-established methodological approach of ‘participatory action research’.


Questions we would like to address at the event:

How do smart city policies impact livelihoods of informal settlements in social and economic terms? What is the value added of smart city policies for the re-development of informal  settlements?

What role do playgrounds have in the development of children and their communities in informal settlements?

Which planning approaches can be applied to re-develop informal settlements?

What are the challenges and potentials of doing participatory action research in informal settlements?

Which role does academia play in urban research and design processes in these contexts? (both in the Global North and the Global South)


The event consist of four presentations followed by discussions:

Amita Bhide: “Contextualising Everyday Life of Children in Informal Settlements in Mumbai”   (TATA Institute of Social Sciences, School of Habitat, Mumbai)

Biju Kuriakose: “Smart Cities”: Equity and “The Right to the city” – Challenges and Opportunities of practicing in Urban India”  (ArchitectureRED, Chennai)

Martina Spies (Anukruti) & Alexander Hamedinger (TU Vienna): “Cultures of play in informal settlements in Mumbai”

Ian Banerjee (TU Vienna): “Civic Tech and bottom-up notions of the Smart City


We warmly invite you to participate in this event! Please register until the 4th of April per email.

Organiser: Centre of Sociology