Global Smart City Index

The Global Smart City Index was conceived in 2017 by the International Institute for Management Development or IMD and the Singapore University of Technology and Design or SUTD who joined forces to produce a smart city index offering a balanced focus on economic and technological aspects of smart cities on the one hand, and the “humane dimensions” of smart cities which included things like quality of life, environment and inclusiveness on the other. The Smart City Index ranks cities based on economic and technological data, as well as by their citizens’ perceptions of how “smart” their cities are.

The global smart city index consists of two distinct phases and deliverables. In the first phase, a set of case studies of smart cities at different stages of development, providing a diverse international basis of experience, with the purpose of enhancing the realism and pertinence of the model underpinning the index was proposed. In the second phase, a first iteration of the index methodology was defined, leading to a global ranking of smart cities along that index in 2019. The Global Smart City Index in 2020 is the second edition of the rankings. The 2020 rankings’ key findings is on how technology is playing a role in the COVID-19 era in a way that is likely to remain.

For the 2020 rankings, hundreds of citizens from 109 cities were surveyed in April and May 2020 and asked questions on the technological provisions of their city across five key areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance. According to Bruno Lanvin, President of the IMD Smart City Observatory, “It is of course too early to draw the lessons from COVID. However, it is clear that we are at a critical juncture, where the sanitary crisis is still very much with us, while the economic and social crisis that it will entail has hardly started. This year’s Smart City Index suggests that the cities that have been able to combine technologies, leadership and a strong culture of ‘living and acting together’ should be able to better withstand the most damaging effects of such crises.”

Singapore continued to maintain the top position, as it did in 2019 with Helsinki and Zurich coming in second and third place in 2020. The reason for this was because of Singapore’s performance in a one year period between the last year’s rankings to this year and Singapore’s continued success with prompt responses to an unexpected challenge where other cities have faltered and the city-state acted quickly and decisively. According to Professor Arturo Bris, director of the World Competitiveness Centre at IMD, “It had a clear road map that it followed but remained flexible. The citizens were kept informed and therefore onboard with the decisions and the loss of freedom that these entailed. The Government was in position to provide adequate compensation to those losing out and did this wisely,”.

The survey findings noted that a central pillar of Singapore’s success has been its resilience and promptness when confronted with the unexpected challenges brought by the pandemic. The index also noted that cities with better technology have managed the pandemic better, but also noted that smart cities are not the solution, but technology helps.

The index also noted that cities in India including New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, suffered significant drops in the rankings this year which can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic has had where the technological advancement was not up to date. Indian cities have suffered more from the pandemic because they were not prepared. Also, a common factor behind the drop in all Indian cities is a general decline experienced by all of them in the quality of infrastructure of the cities despite the technological solutions implemented to advancing it. All four cities highlighted air pollution as one of the key areas that they felt their city needed to prioritise on.

For cities like Bangalore and Mumbai, this was closely followed by road congestion while for Delhi and Hyderabad it was basic amenities.

The index also highlighted that “smart” is a relative term and different cities use technology for different things. This is why we see vast differences in the smartness of cities within the same country. They differ in terms of their economies, inequality levels, for example, access to health and policies. Since countries are no longer economic units, mayors and local authorities increasingly have the power to improve the wellbeing of citizens by implementing technology.

Other than Singapore, Taipei is the other Asian city in the top 10, which moved down one notch to eighth place. Helsinki moved up seven places from 8 in 2019 to 2 in 2020, while the tenth city in 2020, New York moved 28 places up from 38 in 2019. My hometown of Mumbai moved down 15 places from 78 in 2019 to 93 in 2020, while Hyderabad, the top Indian city moved down 18 places from 67 in 2019 to 85 in 2020.

The top 10 Global Smart Cities in 2020 are as below with their rank in 2019 in brackets:

  1. Singapore (1)
  2. Helsinki, Finland (8)
  3. Zurich, Switzerland (2)
  4. Auckland, New Zealand (6)
  5. Oslo, Norway (3)
  6. Copenhagen, Denmark (5)
  7. Geneva, Switzerland (4)
  8. Taipei, Taiwan (7)
  9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands (11)
  10. New York, United States (38)

You can download the index as a PDF file and also read in detail the 2020 profiles of all 109 cities surveyed.