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Studying the making of smart cities

- Deborah Minors

Professor Ronald Wall is an economic geographer and urban planner and the Johannesburg City Chair in Economic Development at Wits.

The City of Johannesburg initiated and funded the Chair, which focuses on applied results and the provision of strategic knowledge to inform the City’s policy-making.

Wall’s research explores themes of urban and regional competitiveness, foreign direct investment, multinational corporations, smart city studies, happiness economics, food security, and inequality.

“I conduct international studies on urban and regional economic development focusing on the interdependence of globalisation and urbanisation,” says Wall.

He applies Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and statistical techniques to databases that are concerned with economic networks (trade, corporate ownership and investment flows) in thousands of cities, as well as the urban characteristics of these cities – innovation levels, governance, inequality, labour and infrastructure.

Wall’s work is unique not only because it focuses on cities in the developing world, but because it observes cities as integral parts of global and regional economic systems.

“This is important to a city like Johannesburg as the research provides a relative, comparative understanding of the city’s power and position within the global, African and South African economy.”

This enables one to trace Johannesburg’s changing competitiveness in the world economy, as well as compare the determinants of this to thousands of other cities.

Read more about research at Wits in Wits Research Matters.