Original Research

A roadmap for smart city services to address challenges faced by small businesses in South Africa

Haydn du Plessis, Annlize L. Marnewick
South African Journal of Economic and Management Sciences | Vol 20, No 1 | a1631 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajems.v20i1.1631 | © 2017 Haydn du Plessis, Annlize L. Marnewick | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 July 2016 | Published: 29 September 2017

About the author(s)

Haydn du Plessis, Postgraduate School of Engineering Management, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg, South Africa
Annlize L. Marnewick, Postgraduate School of Engineering Management, Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, University of Johannesburg, South Africa

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Background: Small businesses are an important part of the South African economy, yet they have high rates of failure. Several contributing factors have previously been identified through literature, including regulatory compliance, skills shortages and lack of government support. Globally, there has been an increased interest in smart cities and the variety of services they offer. These technologies were investigated to establish what role, if any, they could play in alleviating the challenges that small businesses face.

Aim: Identify the relative impact of each of these challenges on the small-business and the relative value of each of the smart city services in order to determine which services would have the largest impact in addressing the challenges.

Method: This research used these factors and identified which challenges had the largest time and financial impact on small businesses and investigated ways in which a variety of smart city services could be leveraged to address these challenges. Using a multi-criteria decision analysis technique, 44 small-business owners participated in the research. Weighted results for the impact of each of the challenges and the value of each of the services were obtained.

Results: Through the subsequent analysis of the results, it was found that small businesses face many challenges because of lack of government and entrepreneurial support, as well as widespread corruption. Similarly, the small-business owners identified that educational material, small-business support portals and eGovernment systems would be the most valuable services that a smart city could offer them. Various sources of literature were used to identify these smart city services and link them to the business challenges that they may be able to mitigate. The infrastructural prerequisites for each of the services were also investigated to identify dependencies and potential problems in their deployment.

Conclusion: The various aspects of this study were integrated, and a smart city roadmap for small-business support was subsequently developed. This roadmap will assist cities in planning their smart city deployment, so that they may better support small businesses in the role that they play in the country’s economy.


smart cities; small business challenges; technology roadmap; analytical hierarchy process


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