Governmentality and performance for the smart city

Daniela Argento (Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden)
Giuseppe Grossi (Kristianstad University, Kristianstad, Sweden) (Nord University, Bodø, Norway) (Kozminski University, Warsaw, Poland)
Aki Jääskeläinen (Tampere University of Technology, Tampere, Finland)
Stefania Servalli (University of Bergamo, Bergamo, Italy)
Petri Suomala (Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)

Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal

ISSN: 0951-3574

Publication date: 25 October 2019



The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of performance measurement systems as technologies of government in the operationalisation of smart city programmes. It answers the research question: how do the development and use of performance measurement systems support smart cities in the achievement of their goals?


This paper presents a longitudinal case study that uses an interventionist approach to investigate the possibilities and limitations of the use of performance measurement systems as technologies of government in a smart city. Interpretations are theoretically informed by the Foucauldian governmentality framework (Foucault, 2009) and by public sector performance measurement literature.


The findings address the benefits and criticalities confronting a smart city that introduces new performance measurement systems as a technology of government. Such technologies become problematic tools when the city network is characterised by a fragmentation of inter-departmental processes, and when forms of resistance emerge due to a lack of process owners, horizontal accountability and cooperation among involved parties.

Research limitations/implications

This paper is based on a case study of a single smart city, and outlines the need for both comparative and multidisciplinary analyses in order to analyse the causes and effects of smart city challenges.


This paper offers a critical understanding of the role of accounting in the smart city. The ineffectiveness of performance measurement systems is related to the multiple roles of such technologies of government, which may lead to a temporary paralysis in the achievement of smart city goals and programmes.



The authors are indebted to Ileana Steccolini and Sanja Korac for their valuable comments on an earlier draft of this paper. The authors are grateful for the comments received by the participants of the British Accounting and Finance Association (BAFA) Annual Conference, Edinburgh (Scotland), 10-12 April 2017, of the 8th Asia-Pacific Interdisciplinary Research in Accounting Conference, RMIT University, Melbourne (Australia), 13-15 July 2016, and of the 39th Annual Congress of the European Accounting Association, Maastricht (The Netherlands), 11-13 May 2016. The authors also recognise the support received from Lee Parker and the two anonymous reviewers in the process of publishing this paper.


Argento, D., Grossi, G., Jääskeläinen, A., Servalli, S. and Suomala, P. (2019), "Governmentality and performance for the smart city", Accounting, Auditing & Accountability Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

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