Smart grids enable customers and utility providers to gain a better understanding of energy consumption and production, by adding a layer of digital data collection and analysis on existing electricity grids. As digital infrastructures they have distinct characteristics from earlier ‘pipeline’ infrastructures in that they can generate significant network effects that could lead to new opportunities for value creation across different stakeholders. Exactly because of these unique characteristics of digital infrastructures, we propose that they can be approached as platforms. With this conceptualization, we seek to explore what are the design and value propositions of a digital infrastructure. We provide answers to this question by synthesizing existing research on platforms and digital infrastructures. We explore the case of the emerging smart grid in South Africa and develop a set of design and value propositions. We discuss the relevance of our propositions to extant research on digital infrastructures and platforms, and explore opportunities for further research.

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