In order, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Beijing, London, and Seoul ranked as the top five smart cities, or ‘digital cities’, in a new study by Economist Impact. New York, Sydney, Singapore, Washington DC, and Paris rounded out the top 10, meaning Europe and Asia Pacific contributed four entries each in the top-10 list, and the US contributed two. Cities with very defined goals performed the best, said Economist Impact.
The study, an inaugural ranking of 30 global cities, available here, included 12 cities in Asia Pacific (40 percent), 10 in Europe (33 percent), four in North America (plus Dallas and Toronto, in Canada; 13 percent), three in South America (10 percent), and just one in the Middle East (Dubai; three percent). It is unclear if the 30 were pre-selected, or went through a broader selection process.
The review, commissioned by NEC, ranked the cities across four “thematic pillars”, all linked to how municipal digital engagement is structured, around connectivity, services, culture, and sustainability. The top five were all singled out for “successful” open data projects and “major strides in smart technology-powered sustainability projects”, notably utility management. Sustainability rankings had the biggest impact on the report, said Economist Impact.
Copenhagen, Seoul, and Toronto scored highest for their use of digital technology to support urban sustainability, but all the “leading smart cities” posted major gains in air quality through smart utility management. European cities scored well for “highly impactful” traffic management systems. Beijing made progress with applied digital tech to tackle air pollution and optimise energy usage, and also to promote a sharing economy.
Copenhagen and Singapore were the most connected cities, followed by Zurich, Beijing and Sydney. The anticipated 5G boom, pegged to create a $660 billion global mobility and transportation market by 2035, told in the scores, said Economist Impact. In particular, Singapore was singled out for investing in 5G and AI as drivers for post-Covid economic growth and innovation.
The top-ranking US cities in the list fared differently for internet accessibility. New York was marked down for unreliable or inaccessible internet services; Economist Impact said half-a-million households in the city lack a reliable internet connection. Meanwhile, Washington DC was marked-up for offering low-cost or no-cost internet services and devices to families unable to afford a broadband subscription.
Paris has the most affordable mobile data of all the cities; Atlantic nation cities led in open data innovation with a boom in travel and mobility apps. The pandemic has seen cities invest heavily in digital technologies for healthcare, particularly in Asia – where “apps were central to managing Covid”. New York was remarked upon for a diabetes-prevention initiative, which has seen the risk of type 2 diabetes in high-risk individuals by 58 percent.
Remote monitoring of chronic patients has marked digitisation everywhere, said Economist Impact. Singapore, São Paulo, and New Delhi ranked the highest for digital municipal services. “New Delhi ranks high in part because of the success of Aadhar, India’s ground-breaking national digital identity scheme,” it said. Similarly, the South Korean government’s Metaverse Seoul project “will provide… access to government services via the metaverse.”
Ritu Bhandari, manager, policy and insights at Economist Impact, said: “Smart cities will be safer, cleaner and more inclusive urban landscapes, where citizens enjoy better public health and services, more efficient transport, and major economic improvements. The index highlights how outlier cities are leveraging technology to improve quality of life for millions of citizens around the world.
“While we see strong leadership from cities in Western Europe, the table is led by major cities from a wide geographical spread. The most significant improvements were delivered against tightly defined goals – a critical success factor for urban digital transformation.”
The study included various analysis, and also polled 3,000 residents in the city index. A statement said: “The results show how cities are performing in terms of both quantitative metrics like internet speed and qualitative factors such as the presence of strategies, policies and plans for technologies like 5G and AI.”