PhD Project: The impact of digitalisation on urban planning: A case study of the networks of citizen participation in transport planning in Southern Norway.

Alhassan Yakubu Alhassan is a CEDIT PhD Fellow.

PhD Fellow Alhassan Yakubu Alhassan, Sociology

Urbanisation and digital transformations are two essential features of the 21st Century. Amid accelerated urbanisation over the past decade, there has been rapid digitalisation of everyday life. Given the increasing urban population and the growing prevalence of digital technologies in society, the question about the role of digitalisation in driving urban planning is particularly important and timely. This research aims to examine the impact of digitalisation on the citizen participation and the networks of actors in urban transport planning process.

Case Study: E18/E39 Gartnerløkka-Meieriet Expansion Project in Kristiansand

The highway E39 west of the centre of Kristiansand is today a two-lane road that has heavy traffic. It passes an average of 40,000 cars per day for the first two kilometres between Gartnerløkka and Hannevikdalen and 20,000 cars per day on the rest of the route. The project plans a new four-lane road that will ease traffic especially in rush-hour. Zoning for the project was out for public inspection in the autumn of 2014. The plans were considered by the City Development Board in Kristiansand on 29 January 2015 and adopted by Kristiansand City Council on 18 February 2015. It is projected to cost 3.06 billion NOK (2018-NOK); funded with 40% state and 60% tolls. The construction starts in 2021 and expected to finish in 2026.

Significance of the study

The study:

  1. investigates planning and implementation challenges at the local level
  2. contributes to our understanding of the challenges of ecological, social and economic sustainability
  3. highlights governance problems and underlines issues of inequality, inclusion, and transparency.
  4. explores the possibilities and challenges for using digital technologies to foster citizen participation in urban governance

Research approach

The thesis proceeds in four stages (iteratively): extensive literature review, document analysis, and social network analysis.

I begin with a review of the literature on what we know about the impact of digitalisation on planning and the models and networks in the planning processes.  It underlines how citizens are increasingly at the centre of urban planning processes due to digitalisation.

The second stage involves the collection and analysis of documents from government reports, historical documents, grey literature, and newspaper articles on the topic of the project and critically analyse them through content analysis. It highlights how the municipal planners encourage (or not) residents to be more active in urban planning projects and the digital tools that have been employed to facilitate citizen participation. Through these documents, the network of actors involved in the planning process will be revealed which will provide an important starting point for the collection and analysis of social network data.

The next step of the project will collect data to analyse the networks of participation in the planning processes. Promoting effective planning requires strengthening linkages among different actors to increase the flow of information and build social capital to encourage better coordination (Sager, 2019). As such, the thesis explores the networks of actors involved in planning and how digitalization impacts the networks of actors. This will involve the collection and analysis of network data through interviews (concentric circles and network maps with respondents). From a network perspective, urban planning activities and outcomes can be conceptualised as emergent phenomena from a system of reciprocal interactions with several actors: network analysis offers a powerful methodological approach to investigate the complex patterns of such relationships. The overall global structural organisation of planning processes and the roles played by different actors in the network can be analysed in a manner that other approaches cannot provide. 

About Alhassan Yakubu Alhassan

Alhassan Yakubu Alhassan is a PhD Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology and Social Work and a member of the Centre for Digital Transformation. Alhassan holds a Masters in Sociology from the University of Saskatchewan in Canada and a masters in Global Development and Planning from the University of Agder. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Social Work from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in Ghana. Alhassan is experienced in both quantitative and qualitative research and has research interests that span the areas of digitalisation, urbanization, social network analysis and sustainability.

Supervisor:  Alexander Ruser  

Co-supervisor: Vito Laterza

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