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Manila moves into 5th to move to the Smart City Index in 2020

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Manila dropped 10 points to 104 from 94 in 2019, finishing fifth in the last 109 places in the Smart City 2020 Index for concerns about roadblocks, corruption, healthcare, air pollution and unemployment. As a result, the rating of the largest cities in the Philippines also slowed to a lower D from C in 2019 with rated D structures and technology in C.

This was revealed in the Smart City Index 2020 by the Institute for Management Development (IMD), in collaboration with Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), which showed key findings on how technology is playing a role in the COVID-era 19. The annual survey conducted in April and May, the peak of COVID-19 blockages, also saw no decline in the ranking of 64 countries.

The Smart City Index lists cities based on economic and technological data, as well as their citizens’ perceptions of how smart their cities are. Based on the study, hundreds of citizens from 109 cities were asked about their city’s technological provisions in five key areas: health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities, and governance.

From a list of 15 indicators, respondents were asked to identify priority areas of concern that were most urgent for their city. Citizens from emerging economies consistently identified air pollution and road congestion as a major problem, while also highlighting security and corruption. Cities in developed countries tend to have other concerns such as unemployment, education and social mobility.

Affordable housing is also emerging as a major concern for most citizens around the world.

For Manila, roadblocks, corruption, health care, air pollution and unemployment were the top 5 areas identified as most urgent by citizens. Other major concerns include basic amenities, public transportation, and safety among others.

According to the survey, Manila, the capital of the Philippines with a population of 12.946 million, was slightly higher than the cities of Rabat, Cairo, Abuja, Nairobi and Lagos.

Meanwhile, Singapore, Helsinki and Zurich topped the Smart City Index in 2020 in a year that saw many European cities rank in the rankings.

We can not ignore the impact of COVID, said IMD Professor Arturo Bris, who led the ranking work as Director of the World Competition Center at the Swiss management institute behind it. Those with better technology manage the pandemic better. Smart cities are not the solution, but technology helps, he explained.

The Duterte administration implemented quarantine measures with Manila which was one of the toughest and longest blockages globally due to the pandemic.

The survey also revealed a diverse performance among Southeast Asian cities. Bangkok (+4) and Kuala Lumpur (+16) perform much better than in 2019. In contrast, Hanoi (-18), Ho Chi Minh City (-18), Jakarta (-13), Makassar (-16 ) and Manila (-10) fall sharply.

The ranking also measures the quality of life of citizens through the Human Development Index (HDI). As the overall quality of life improves, citizens’ expectations are also evolving. This may help explain this decline in years in the rankings for some Asian cities.

States of cities like Hong Kong and Singapore have a clear advantage due to the full coincidence of national and city policy. These two do not suffer from political inefficiencies and conflicts between regions that are typical of other countries. They are also economically specialized and successful, and can therefore channel resources into city technologies. Finally, they are geographically small but very well connected to economic powers like China and India.

Cities in India (New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru) are experiencing significant declines this year. This can be attributed to the detrimental effect that the pandemic had where technological advancement was not updated. Indian cities have suffered the most from the pandemic because they were unprepared.

Moreover, a common factor behind the decline in all Indian cities is a general decline experienced by all of them in the quality of urban infrastructure despite the technological solutions implemented to advance it. Citizens’ perceptions show that there has been a growing dissatisfaction compared to last year especially in areas related to mobility (traffic congestion, quality of public transport) and governance.

Furthermore, the study said that the diverse performance of cities in the Southeast Asian region is rooted in different levels of both economic development and technological infrastructure between these cities. For example, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur enjoy basic infrastructure and higher technology than those available in Makassar, Ho Chi Minh City, or Manila. These structural changes have worsened citizens’ perceptions of their city wit during the COVID pandemic. Cities that could rely on reliable networks and services managed to better address and satisfy the needs of their citizens compared to those that do not have such ecosystems.

Kuala Lumpur is one of the cities in the ranking that improves the most this year (+16). The rankings attribute such progress based on Malaysia’s impressive management of the pandemic, with relatively lower infections than in other neighboring countries.

Indonesian cities follow a similar trajectory as Indian ones in terms of slower HDI upgrades and shock readiness. Cities have not been able to cope well with the pandemic, therefore, the quality of life in its urban areas (Jakarta, Makassar in the ranking) have suffered significantly. Similar to Indian cities, Makassar and Jakarta experienced a decline in the Smart City 2020 index led by lower scores on the structures factor. In particular, negative perceptions regarding the current level of air pollution, traffic jams and the quality of movement services contributed to this result.

Singapore is an exemplary city-state coming in at the top of the rankings this year. However, its uniqueness (politically, geographically, economically) does not make it a model for any other city. Singapore is easier to be smart in Singapore, so it is more of an exception than the norm among other Southeast Asian cities. The mix of its economic, geographical and political characteristics makes it a difficult model to copy in other cities of the region. What has certainly been a central pillar of city-state success in ranking these years has been its resilience and speed when faced with the unexpected challenges posed by the pandemic.

Reflected in the rankings of these years is that cities have increasingly different approaches to technology as pandemic management has become increasingly important in local politics.

It is also clear that the COVID-19 crisis is likely to widen inequalities between assets and those unrelated, both within and within cities. This is an aspect that will attract the attention of analysts and governments, both central and local.

Smart cities close to the top of the rankings seem to face unexpected destructive pandemic challenges with a better outcome, said Professor Heng Chee Chan, Chair of the Lee Kuan Yew Center for Innovative Cities at SUTD.

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