Digitalization and Implications for Planning

By Alexsandra Gomez, Joseph DeAngelis, AICP



The rapid advancement of digital technology is driving enormous change in how people live, how they socialize, where they work or go to school, how they access healthcare, what they buy, and how they shop. As these technologies grow in ubiquity and sophistication, they play an increasingly central role in mediating people's lives and their interactions with the world. As once-analog processes continue to be supplemented, converted, or superseded by digital innovations, a process called digitalization, the resulting feedback can drive broader and larger-scale reorganization in society.

This report identifies how this ongoing process of digitalization is driving change in the world and what this change means for planners and their communities. First, it introduces planners to the broad trends in digitalization, how they have evolved, and what the data suggests about their future trajectories. Next, this report explores the implications of digitalization for planning and planners in the context of changes in housing demand, transportation, broadband and data infrastructure, economic development, and healthcare and education facilities.

This report is not intended to predict the future. Nor is this a report an analysis of how planning tools and technologies will change as a result of digitalization. Rather, it is intended as an exploration of the development of digitalization in the world today and its potential implications in our communities and the built environment.

This report was developed in partnership with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.


Page Count
Date Published
Feb. 28, 2022
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Alexsandra Gomez
Alexsandra Gomez is a policy analyst at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. Her work is primarily in the Safe and Complete Streets program. She formerly worked as a research associate at the American Planning Association, where she supported sponsored and strategic research projects and write for APA publications. She has a background in cultural geography and anthropology and applies these disciplines to planning research and practice. Her research interests include urban political ecology, geographies of power, and equitable community-led development.

Joseph DeAngelis, AICP
Joseph DeAngelis, AICP is a planner and Research Manager with the American Planning Association in Chicago. Joseph's primary area of research is in the realm of climate adaptation and community resilience. He currently manages APA's slate of FEMA and NOAA sponsored research projects. Previously, he was a resiliency planner for the New York City Department of City Planning, where he worked on long-term planning and zoning solutions for communities impacted by Hurricane Sandy.

Table of Contents

Digitalization of Everything

Working from Anywhere
Food Services
Social Life, Entertainment, and Leisure

Implications for Planning

Housing Demand and Associated Land-Use Changes
Broadband and Data Infrastructure
Economic Development
Education and Healthcare Facilities