This research report was prepared for the Cities Alliance Cities and Migration Programme with funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). It builds on Cities Alliance’s previous work on the role of digital innovation in urban areas of low and middle-income countries (LMICs) around the world.

Digital Priorities for Rapidly Urbanising Secondary Cities focuses on secondary cities, in which the majority of urban growth is occurring and where there are significant challenges resulting from unplanned and chaotic urban development, highly mobile populations, and low levels of economic productivity.

These challenges are further compounded by the gradually worsening impacts of climate change, such as cyclones, flooding, extreme heat, and landslides. Digital transformation offers much promise to secondary cities and other urban areas throughout LMICs.

There are already many tried-and-tested examples of how digital solutions can support more inclusive and sustainable economic transformation in the context of rapid urbanisation.

Each urban area and municipal government must identify how they can best harness digital innovation and raise their state of digital readiness, working in partnership with the private sector, civil society, academic institutions, and development partners. 

The report outlines five particularly high-impact areas of digital innovation, with case studies for each one. These areas represent possible solutions to challenges that are urgent in the majority of secondary cities and urban areas in LMICs: mobile big data, digital systems for land governance and tenure, increasing tax revenue with digital systems, digital innovation for sanitation and waste management services, and e-governance services to support livelihoods.


Banner photo: Women in Nepal. UNOPS - John Rae