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Rebranding Umhlanga as an intelligent city.

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The notion of the ‘intelligent city’ has gained popularity over the last two decades in the urban realm. It is an urban movement towards creating cities which are more adaptable to the fast-paced changes and associated challenges of 21st century cities, with much emphasis on technology. Thus, this study emphasises the importance of researching the case study of Umhlanga as an Intelligent City within a localised context of a developing country, due to the varying adjustment capabilities of ‘developed’ and ‘developing’ countries to respond to 21st century city challenges, effectively. The aim of this study was to establish the extent to which Umhlanga embodies the principles of the intelligent city, in response to the traditional city challenges of the 21st century. The main theories which were explored for the purpose of this study included: New Urbanism, an urban design notion which is sustainability-centred, promoting mixed-use activities within a compact-city design; Nodal Development, a spatial restructuring tool which aims to purposefully encourage development in earmarked areas as outlined in municipal integrated development plans (IDP) in a bid to minimise the developmental gap between areas of high development and areas with development disadvantages; Neoliberalism, a governmental policy which gives the market the upper-hand in determining supply and demand, by the government playing a facilitative role whilst the private sector invests directly into developments, thereby creating the necessary and highly dependent-on public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the success of the intelligent city, and; the Non-Place Urban Realm looks at the Umhlanga Ridge Town Centre’s ability to offer itself twofold – as a physical meeting place well-equipped for face-to-face encounters, as well as its presence as a non-physical realm through the necessary infrastructures which allow for cross-boundary transactions which occur via cyberspace and ICTs. A mixed-method research approach was adopted throughout this research paper. Secondary data sources which were explored included journal articles, books, municipal documents such as eThekwini’s IDPs and the URTC design framework; whilst the primary sources included a snowball approach to key-informant interviews, questionnaires, GIS mapping and general observations. The main findings of this paper render the Umhlanga Ridge New Town Centre as an intelligent city within a localised context, based on the New Urbanism and Non- Place Urban realm theories, aligned with Hollands’ three framing principles of the intelligent city: Infrastructure-based Services; Social Inclusion, Learning and Development, and; Business-led Urban Development. The recommendations for this research includes a new technology which has not yet been adopted in the URNTC, but has been implemented in parts of Durban’s CBD, referred to as Light Pole Installations (LPI). These LPIs will ultimately provide ultra-fast cellular communication, ultra-fast Wi-Fi to local traffic environments, and give Wi-Fi connectivity to the public environment. Moreover, it is proposed that stricter parking measures be adopted within the Town Centre so as discourage the use of the automobile between such short distances and optimise the benefit of the New Urbanism design which does put much of its emphasis on walkability within the precinct, as sustainability is a major drive of the intelligent city.


Master’s Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.